The gulf between farmers and the people they feed is getting dangerously wide

If we don’t value dirt, we’re going to lose it to steel. If we don’t expose the next generation to agriculture, we risk falling even further behind.

The gulf between those who rule the world and the farmers who feed it is widening, a grave trajectory that is and will continue to negatively affect issues surrounding food security, sustainability and the environment. Children are growing up with little to no exposure to the goings on of a farm.

There must have been a widespread connection to the soil in our nation’s history. Farmers reminisce about this. They want it back. They yearn for that time when people valued soil and valued the toil of a farmer.

Many of the people living in small, rural towns and cities are two sometimes three generations off the farm. People are noticing many of these people have little to no idea about the realities farmers face on a regular basis.

Is urbanization to blame? Or did people start to pull away after the Second World War when agricultural chemical production began its march to ubiquity.

That education is paramount is not a hard sell. That agricultural education is just as paramount may take some convincing.

If you knew Winkler, Manitoba, you’d likely be surprised to know that in its sprawling suburbs children are growing up with parents and teachers who may not be able to tell them why some eggs become chickens and others don’t.

And Winkler fashions itself an urban bastion of agricultural excellence. It is. Lots of communities in Canada are. But among all of them, the concern of losing the support of a generation is very real, the consequences of which are potentially devastating to agriculture.

It seems at times that agriculture, in general, is no longer the farmer’s to lose. The public hovers over the kill switch and it’s up to us to convince them to think twice.

It’s farmers who are pushing for inserting agriculture into school curricula — for making sure that children go on at least one field trip to a farm. They are doing this because they have to, realizing that without advocacy a generation that doesn’t know about food production has the power to make running a farm operation nearly impossible.

If nothing is done to close this gap and the logic pounding away at this wedge is taken to its limits, farmers will continue to see an increase in agriculture-related policies and laws that have no grounding in the way things really are outside of Canada’s cities; farmers will feel more and more pressure to justify what they do to an audience seemingly oblivious to the fact that farms produce food; farmers will be forced to continue finding ways to diversify and stay afloat while government and other risk-management supports crumble; and more and more cultivated land will be forfeited to development.

The solution may be as easy as taking a Grade 3 class to a working farm. Our next prime minister could be in that group.

Organizations such as 4-H and Agriculture in the Classroom and initiatives like Open Farm Day are dedicated to making sure children and adults have the opportunity to learn about farming, visit farms and interact with farmers. They’re widely supported. They do good work. They do important work.

I have milked a cow, but it has been a while. Current regulations and biosecurity standards make it unlikely that I ever will again. I’m not arguing that you and your children find a cow to milk. There are other options.

We need to take agricultural education seriously.

We need soil more than we need steel.


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