COMMON GROUND: Ontario agriculture’s green challenge is the working title of a book being researched and written by noted Ontario Farmer Editor Peter Reschke. Several Ontario crop advisors have joined forces to organize support for the writing of this book. According to the website writeup about the project they say the book sets out to examine the many environmental issues facing Ontario’s crop production agriculture based on current conditions and attitudes, to encourage dialogue and propose solutions.
Agriculture has long enjoyed a positive public image but recently some cracks have appeared in that support. As the industry consolidates and intensifies, farmers are facing increasing scrutiny about practices that affect a sizeable part of Ontario’s land base, its ground and surface waters, wildlife habitat and the food we consume. These issues are complex and attitudes are far-ranging. It is the intention of the author to examine these complex environmental issues from different perspectives and to provide a range of diverse viewpoints including commercial producers, environmental groups, outdoor recreationists, academics, agri-business, and government.
For the non-farmer, the book will offer a factual portrayal of modern agriculture – its business and production aspects, drawing on research, sound data to counter some common misconceptions. It will also highlight the day-to-day efforts of individual producers trying to find solutions to environmental issues while maintaining a viable business in an increasingly competitive market.
For the producer, it will provide a mirror so farmers can see themselves the way an increasingly environmentally aware public sees them. It will serve to define public concerns, alerting producers to the reality that what they do has a far-reaching effect.
But most of all, it will encourage the reader to get beyond polarized “us and them” attitudes, to initiate dialogue and find common ground.
Among the issues to be addressed in the book will be the future of productive farmland, agriculture’s impact on water availability and quality, pesticide use, pollinator declines, genetically modified organisms, wildlife habitat issues, climate change and carbon sequestration, biofuels, as well as the potential for alternative crop production systems.
Who should be interested in a book such as this?
The author says: “On one side, I think this book will have a fairly broad appeal outside of agriculture. Everyone has an opinion about farming, about pesticides, GMOs, clean water, biodiversity, or food security. From my own experiences, I know there are a lot of misconceptions among consumers and environmentally minded individuals based on things they have heard or gleaned from the internet. But the vast majority of these people have an open mind; they’re eager to hear agriculture tell its story in an unemotional, knowledgeable way.
At the same time, I know farmers will read it, especially those who think about their own footprint on the land and about how non-farmers perceive them – those who are willing to make changes that make sense within their business rather than be regulated by outsiders.
For those wishing to contribute to this appeal, there are two ways by which individuals or groups can express their support for this project and facilitate its completion. The first is a direct donation of any amount in the form of a cheque. Contributions can be mailed to Peter Reschke, 9955 Ilderton Rd RR2, Ilderton ON, N0M-2A0. If you wish, you may include a brief comment as to why you’re supporting the book. Those comments will be featured on this web site.
The second way is to donate items, including farm inputs, to a fundraising auction to be held at the CCA annual meeting in London on the evening of Jan. 14 at the Best Western hotel. While the annual meeting is open to CCA members only. Everyone is welcome at the auction. There will also be opportunities to place pre-auction bids by phone. Details will be available closer to the meeting date.