This week’s guest commentary comes from Nathan Stevens of the Christian Farmers of Ontario
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations recently declared 2014 to be the International Year of the Family Farmer. The Christian Farmers Federation believes that it will be positive for there to be a sharp focus on farming families throughout 2014. As this discussion unfolds, it will be important to recognize that the family farm needs to be innovative and adaptable to sustain itself as a business entity in the future.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization website, the goals of the declaration are the following:
The 2014 International Year of Family Farming aims to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.
Ensuring that the family farm is recognized for the important role it plays in feeding the world is a great thing. While this discussion goes on, it is important to recognize that what the family farm was for the previous generation will not be the same as the family farm for this generation and certainly not for the next generation. The family farm can and should continue to be the cornerstone of agriculture, but the business model and the policies that support it need to change over time.
Taking Ontario farms as an example, the family farm has evolved over the years. Technology in the form of larger equipment, improved plant breeding, and a wide array of other tools to better manage a everything from pests to finances is rapidly changing the way business is conducted. The simple reality is that the family farm needs to grow and change with changing technology, improved education of farmers and changing consumer demands.
The family farm is the foundation of farming in Ontario. The special emphasis on the family farmer in 2014 will hopefully yield positive results on an international scale for farming families around the world and here at home in Ontario.