Food For Thought: What You Didn’t Know About Agriculture

Food For Thought: What You Didn’t Know About Agriculture

on January 26 | in Kim Cooper | by | with No Comments

Laurent (Woody) Van Arkel (left) discussing the importance of cover crops this past summer at a Field Day in co-operation with the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus, Ontario Ministry and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Ontario Soil Network.

In all the articles we have been sharing about agriculture, just how much have you learned? I continue to learn more about this sector every day. The world of agriculture is massive, complex, and always changing.

Just how much has agriculture changed over the years? What are producers doing today to keep competitive and innovative?

Let’s look at bit closer at farming as a business and try to understand some of the issues facing farmers these days. The information in this article is from “The Real Dirt on Farming” which is published through Farm & Food Care Ontario.

Just 100 years ago, over 50 per cent of Canada’s population was farmers. Today, it’s less than two per cent. One hundred years ago, a farmer could produce enough food for 10 people. Today, one farmer can feed over 120 people.

One hundred years ago, Canadians spent 50 cents of every dollar earned on food. Today, Canadians spend only 10.6 cents of every dollar earned on food. We have among the lowest food prices in the world.

The overall number of farms has been falling steadily for years. In 2011, Canada had 206,000 farms compared to 511,000 farms in 1901, which is a 60 per cent decrease.

In 1931, one in three Canadians lived on a farm. Today, one in 46 Canadians lives on a farm.

Ninety-seven per cent of Canadian farms are still family-owned and operated, which is good.

The average age of a Canadian farmer is about 56.

The number of young people in farming is falling. Just over nine per cent of farmers are under the age of 35.

Continual innovation, specialization, and persistence have brought the business of farming light years ahead in the production of top quality, abundant, safe, and well-priced food products.

For every dollar a Canadian farmer earns, he pays out approximately 75 cents in operating expenses.

As the price of fuel and other essential inputs outpace earned income, farmers must become even more productive and efficient to stay in business.

Although consumer food prices continue to increase, the amount of money going back to the farmer stays the same or sometimes even goes down.

Last year, the average cost of two loaves of bread was $4.94, but the farmer received only 22 cents.

In Ontario and other provinces, farmers must take a course and pass an exam in order to become certified to purchase and use pesticides.

In 1983, Ontario farmers and the provincial government set a goal to decrease agricultural pesticide use in half within 20 years. By 2003, farmers had reduced their use of pesticides by 52 per cent – and it continues to decrease by about three per cent every year.

Farmers are continually taking courses and attending workshops to make sure they’re up to date with the latest technologies and farming practices. In fact, the 25th annual Southwest Agricultural Conference recently took place at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. Eighty speakers during these two days gave informative and innovative talks to 1,400 producers from across Southwestern Ontario and beyond. Now that’s a progressive sector!

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Think about this – God gave us a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have we used one of them to say thank you?

Just some food for thought.

Here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at

Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 45 years. He can be reached at:

You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy

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Chatham-Kent Is The NUMBER ONE Producer Of Cauliflower In All Of Ontario.

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