Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary By Franchesca Weeks, CFFO Communications Manager
Analysis is now flowing in measuring how things fared in the year 2015, and projections are coming forward about what to expect in 2016. Experts, including those at FCC, are looking at new trends in weather and economic patterns to predict what lies ahead. This is a good time of year to step back and look at the day to day from a broader perspective, to see what long-term patterns are emerging. The new year is a time to look back and reflect on the year that was, and to look forward, usually with both optimism and resolve, on how the coming year can be better than the one before.
Over the holidays we get to spend extra time visiting with friends and family, and to review the importance of our relationships in our lives. Good long-term relationships add meaning to our lives, and make us healthier and happier in the long run too, even as we deal with the ups and downs of everyday life. Much the same can be said for farming.
Good farming is about relationships, best built up over the long-term. Farming is a relationship between farmers and their farms, the land, plants and animals that together make an integrated system. One important value of family farming is the familiarity that is possible between the farming family and the farm (land, plants, and animals) as well as the surrounding community, over time.
Considering living relationships on the farm is becoming more important in many different ways. The broader public are increasingly interested in how farming methods impact living things, on and off the farm. Social licence expectations of farmers are putting greater emphasis on the need for good animal care, greater biodiversity, and greater awareness of environmental impacts of farming, both negative and positive. One clear example of this trend, as Michael von Massow points out, is that there is vastly increasing concern about animal welfare among eaters.
Farmers are paying attention too. Farming requires both technical and biological knowledge. Farmers work with living things and living processes, and many farmers are focusing on the relationships among the living elements of the farm.
Looking at the programs for upcoming farming conferences, there is significant emphasis on biological rather than technological methods and improvements. Soil life is receiving much more attention. Biological forms of fertilizer and weed control, such as the use of cover crops and living mulches are also hot topics. But it is not just on-farm relationships that are important.
Farmers are also aware of the need to work at building stronger relationships with eaters. The broader public are more concerned about their food, but are often misinformed. Good communication from farmers helps eaters tell real farming practices apart from myths. Keeping a strong relationship between eaters and farmers may be even more vital in 2016 than ever.