Last week, we celebrated Ag Day in Canada. For the first time, the agriculture industry came together to formally celebrate the abundance of safe and affordable food we are producing in Canada and the people (farmers) producing it.
It was high time we celebrate and frankly, by not doing so, we have done a disservice to you.
We owe it to you to celebrate what we are doing. You deserve to know that the safety of the Canadian food system is among the best in the world. You deserve to feel confident in whatever vegetables you choose to put in your grocery cart and know the farmers who grew them put the care of the soil, water and your health first in doing so.
But you also deserve to know more about who we are. “Farmers” are not a homogenous group. No two are alike, and every farmer is his or her own boss and makes his or her own decisions about how and why they farm. That being said, I have noticed in my travels and meeting many farmers across Canada, there are some qualities many of us share.
We are environmentally-conscious
Passing the farm onto their kids motivates farmers of all generations to care for and protect the soil and water on their farm. Increasingly, environmentally-friendly actions are also proving to be profitable longer term.
On our farm, my brothers have been doing trials for the last two years to determine the best cover crops to grow in our fields, which will protect the soil from erosion and increase the nutrients and hold carbon in the soil.
We are very concerned about putting down any excess fertilizer that our crops cannot use, because we don’t want it to end up in the water system, especially since fertilizer is expensive. Also, two years ago, my brother outfitted his sprayer to put fertilizer directly into the ground where the corn’s roots can easily access it, instead of spraying it over the crop.
We are compassionate caregivers
Even with all the technology being employed on farms today, there is no robot to help a mother cow give birth or patiently teach a lamb to drink. That still takes caring hands, patience and compassion to put our animals ahead of ourselves, even when it is 2 am and you have just got home from a night out and you’re ready to crash.
We built our new dairy barn with the comfort of our cows as the first priority. It means we need to work harder to make sure it’s clean and dry, but happy cows really are healthier cows. Caring for any animal takes patience and dedication, but follow my friend Sandi on Snapchat (sandibrock1975), and you will see through her daily snaps, it’s not for the faint of heart.
We are dedicated volunteers
Many of us were raised in small towns and we grew up playing soccer in summer, attending the fall fair in September and traveling around the county to cheer on our local team at the hockey arena. Our teams were always coached by someone’s parents and the fair put on by an army of volunteers, often farmers and neighbours from the surrounding area.
Community is strong for us and we look forward to these opportunities to catch up with one another and get together. We were raised to help one another out, and when we see people in need, be they neighbours in our community or fellow humans on the other side of the planet, we are driven to help. My aunt and a few women from our church started a food bank in our small town. Our neighbours grow grain to provide as emergency aid in Africa.
We are family businesses
The farm is our home and it’s our business. Like other entrepreneurs, my family doesn’t get a paid vacation or work set-hours. Everything they earn helps put food on their table or goes back into improving the land, equipment or buying more land. That money goes back into the community.
Whether we are hiring someone to help on our farm or we are buying feed from the local dealership or taking our truck in for repairs in the local garage, our farms help keep jobs in our communities.
We are focused on quality
We also worry a lot about our animals’ health and and the integrity of the products we are shipping off our farm. Whether it’s the milk that leaves our farm every other day or the soybeans we harvest in the fall. We are keeping close track of everything, literally monitoring our cows’ health in real-time to make sure they are healthy and happy.
Technology has allowed us to do this and without it, we would not be able to produce the same, high-quality product. We could never go back to how my grandma farmed in the fifties, or even how my dad farmed in the 70’s. Milk was picked up in cans at the end of the lane. Imagine with our hot summer temperatures today, how that milk would be when it arrived to the dairy.
When you buy Canadian milk or bread, know you are supporting my family. And many other farmers like us. We are optimistic and see a bright future to continue growing healthy, affordable grains and milk in Canada. We are also fiercely proud of how we do this, with our family by our side, motivating us to make the best decisions we can. You deserve to know us better, because you should never feel uncertain of buying Canadian.