Update – National New Farmer Survey

National New Farmer Survey Follow-up

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The National New Farmer Coalition and Julia Laforge from the University of Manitoba are busy working through the results of the survey, but we wanted to take a quick minute to thank all of our participants as well as those who helped us circulate the survey. We had a huge response and we wanted to share some of our initial findings with you to give you a taste of where we’re going next.

Congrats to our winners!

We had almost 40 prize winners! A big thank you to those who donated prizes: Chelsea Green Publishing; Éditions Berger; Canadian Organic Growers; Growing for Market; Beyond Organic: The Permaculture Orchard (film); Johnny’s Seeds; Bogs; and, Small Farms Central.

Some of the winners were: Jen, Susan, Charlotte and Richard from Ferme Lève-Tôt, Amy from Red Pocket Farm, Melanie, Karly from Shady Acre Farm, Marilyn from Hawthorn Hill Farm, Jessica with Saanich Organics, Ben from Fresh Start Farm, Robin with CEEDS, Marie with Rustic Grocer, Elaine, Karen from Good Spring Farm, Patricia from Harmony Farm Kennel and Lamb, Roger, Jonathan from Featherwood Farm, Maggie from Ferme rayons du miel, Nicolas from La shop à légumes, Chantale, Eva from Ferme Alva Farm, Mathieu, Maxime from Les jardins Terra Rustica, Lucas from Symbiofruits, and Caroline.

Three survey highlights: One of our objective is to know who the new farmers are, their background, and a few demographic details.

English gender farm1) New farmers are predominantly female. This may not fit with our traditional stereotypes in North America about who grows our food and may point to specific needs such as making day care accessible to farmers, especially those in rural areas.

2) The average age of respondents was 38 (the oldest was 85 and the youngest was 16). This average includes a range of farming experience, from those who identified as experienced farmers to aspiring farmers.

3) The majority of today’s farmers did not grown up on a farm. This may mean that the new farmers of today will have drastically different needs (training, land access, and so on) than farmers of previous generations who inherited knowledge and land from their families.

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Next steps:

Over the next few months we will continue to explore all the information that you’ve provided us with and consider the implications for policy-makers. We plan on releasing a public report later this year that gives an overview of our findings. We look forward to sharing that information with you soon! But in the meantime, we still want to hear from you!

Do you have a story that you want to share? Have you faced challenges or celebrated successes that you want government and your fellow farmers to hear about?

Contact newfarmercoalition@gmail.com to share your story or find out more about how we will be using these stories to help us build our report.

Feel free to share this blog post with your colleagues, friends, and family at https://ruminationsongerminations.com/updates and join the National New Farmer Coalition Facebook Group.

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Suivi du sondage sur la relève agricole

L’équipe de la Coalition pancanadienne pour les nouveaux fermiers et les nouvelles fermières ainsi que Julia Laforge de l’Université du Manitoba souhaite remercier tous ceux et celles qui ont participé au sondage sur les nouveaux fermiers et les nouvelles fermières, ainsi que ceux et celles qui on fait circuler le sondage dans leurs réseaux.

Nous nous consacrons présentement à l’analyse du sondage. Celui-ci a obtenu un bon nombre de réponses et nous voulons partager avec vous quelques résultats préliminaires et vous mettre à l’affût de ce qui est à venir.

Félicitations aux gagnants!

Presque 40 prix ont été remis aux gagnants du tirage grâce à la générosité de nos commanditaires, dont Chelsea Green Publishing, les Éditions BergerGrowing for MarketCultivons Biologique Canada, le film Le verger permaculturel : Au delà du bioJohnny’s SeedsBogs, et Small Farms Central.

Voici quelques-uns des gagnants: Jen, Susan, Charlotte et Richard de la Ferme Lève-Tôt, Amy de Red Pocket Farm, Melanie, Karly de Shady Acre Farm, Marilyn de Hawthorn Hill Farm, Jessica de Saanich Organics, Ben de Fresh Start Farm, Robin de CEEDS, Marie de Rustic Grocer, Elaine, Karen de Good Spring Farm, Patricia de Harmony Farm Kennel and Lamb, Roger, Jonathan de Featherwood Farm, Maggie de la Ferme rayons du miel, Nicolas de La shop à légumes, Chantale, Eva de la Ferme Alva Farm, Mathieu, Maxime de Les jardins Terra Rustica, Lucas de Symbiofruits, et Caroline.

Trois faits saillants

Un de nos objectifs est de cerner l’identité des nouveaux fermiers et leur base de connaissances tout en identifiant certaines tendances démographiques.

Français gender farm1) Il y a plus de nouvelles fermières que de nouveaux fermiers, ce qui ne cadre pas avec l’idée préconçue que nous nous faisons des producteurs agricoles nord-américains comme étant majoritairement des hommes. Ceci pourrait indiquer l’importance de répondre à certains besoins spécifiques, incluant par exemple l’accessibilité des services de garde, en particulier pour ceux et celles qui résident en milieu rural.

2) La moyenne d’âge des répondants est de 38 ans (l’âge des participants allait de 16 à 85 ans). Cette moyenne d’âge incluent les agriculteurs et agricultrices qui se considèrent comme étant expérimenté(e)s ainsi que les aspirants(e)s fermiers et fermières.

3) La majorité des répondants n’ont pas été élevés à la ferme, ce qui indique que les besoins des nouveaux agriculteurs et nouvelles agricultrices (accès à la terre, accès aux connaissances et autres) diffèrent radicalement de ceux de leurs prédécesseurs, dont la plupart ont hérité des connaissances et des terres familiales.

Français growing up graphic

Prochaines étapes

Durant les prochains mois, nous continuerons d’analyser l’information que vous nous avez fournie tout en nous penchant sur leurs implications politiques. Nous ferons paraître un rapport résumant nos découvertes d’ici la fin de l’année et c’est avec plaisir que nous partagerons ce compte rendu avec vous. En attendant, nous souhaitons continuer de récolter vos commentaires et vos opinions.

Souhaitez-vous faire part de votre histoire ou de vos expériences aux décideurs politiques et à vos collègues? Si vous avez une histoire à partager concernant vos défis et vos réussites en tant qu’agriculteur ou agricultrice, ou si vous avez des questions concernant le rôle de ces histoires dans l’élaboration du rapport, veuillez nous contacter au newfarmercoalition@gmail.com.

N’hésitez pas à faire circuler ce blogue parmi vos réseaux via le blogue https://ruminationsongerminations.com/updates et à vous joindre au groupe Facebook de la Coalition.

New Farmer Survey/Sondage sur les nouveaux fermiers et les nouvelles fermières

We want to hear from farmers in Canada! Tell us about the experience and needs of new farmers in Canada and you’ll be entered to win over $1500 in sweet prizes! SURVEY CLOSES MARCH 31, 2015.

La version française suit.

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The National New Farmer Coalition and the University of Manitoba have put together a survey to assess the needs of new farmers in Canada where it concerns policy and educational opportunities. If you are intending to farm, are currently farming, or have recently exited farming, we want to hear from you! The results from this survey will be used to develop a National New Farmer Policy Platform that we aim to share with all levels of government. It will also document the sources of new farmer learning and make suggestions on how to improve this training in Canada. In order to give weight to our recommendations, we need as many farmer voices as possible.

Please take 20-30 minutes to fill out the following survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/newfarmersurvey

All respondents will be entered into a draw for cash and other prizes. Prizes include $500, $200, and $100 and non-cash prizes of:

a) A wide selection of food and agriculture books from Chelsea Green Publishing, Éditions ÉcoSociétés and the Canadian Organic Growers
b) Full access digital subscriptions for Growing for Market.
d) Gift certificates for downloadable ebooks from the Soil Foodweb 
e) Gift certificates for Johnny’s Seeds.
f) One $100 gift certificate for Bogs.
g) A free webinar from Small Farms Central entitled “Using the Internet to Drive Farm Sales”.

The survey is also available as a PDF that can be emailed or mailed to you. Please contact julia.laforge@umanitoba.ca or newfarmercoalition@gmail.com for details.

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Sondage sur les nouveaux fermiers/nouvelles fermières

Vous êtes agriculteur/agricultrice, vous souhaitez le devenir ou vous ne travaillez plus dans le domaine? Nous avons besoin de votre avis! Partagez vos opinions sur l’expérience et les besoins des nouveaux fermiers/nouvelles fermières au Canada et courez la chance de gagner plusieurs prix d’une valeur de plus de 1500 $! LE SONDAGE SE TERMINE LE 31 MARS, 2015. 

La Coalition pancanadienne pour les nouveaux fermiers/nouvelles fermières et l’Université du Manitoba ont développé un sondage dont l’objectif est de cerner les besoins des nouveaux fermiers au Canada en matière de politique et d’offres de formations. Les résultats de ce sondage serviront au développement d’une plateforme politique servant les nouveaux fermiers/nouvelles fermières à tous les paliers gouvernementaux. Le sondage documentera l’offre de formation existante et présentera des pistes de solutions pour améliorer la formation au Canada. Pour donner du poids à nos recommandations, aidez-nous à recueillir le plus grand nombre de réponses possibles.

Veuillez s.v.p. compléter et faire circuler le sondage suivant :

https://fr.surveymonkey.com/s/sondagenouveauxfermiernouvellefermieres

Tous les répondants seront admissibles à un tirage comprenant trois prix en argent (500 $, 200 $ et 100 $) et les prix suivants:
a) Plusieurs livres portant sur l’agriculture de Chelsea Green Publishing, les Éditions ÉcoSociétés et Cultivons Biologique Canada.
b) Des copies du film “Le verger permaculturel : Au delà du bio”.
c) Des abonnements en ligne pour Growing for Market.
d) Des certificats-cadeaux pour des livres numériques du Soil Foodweb.
e) Des certificats-cadeaux de Johnny’s Seeds.
f) Un certificat-cadeau d’une valeur de $100 pour Bogs.
g) Un webinaire gratuit de Small Farms Central intitulé “Using the Internet to Drive Farm Sales” (en anglais seulement)

Le sondage est aussi disponible en format PDF et nous pouvons vous le faire parvenir par courriel ou par la poste. Veuillez contacter julia.laforge@umanitoba.ca ou newfarmercoalition@gmail.com pour les détails.

The problem with agricultural science is complexity

I am currently reading Neva Hassanein’s 1999 book entitled Changing the Way America Farms: Knowledge and Community in the Sustainable Agriculture Movement. In the book, she begins by looking at the history of agricultural science in the US and the worldview assumptions behind the way science has developed. Both the public research done at land-grant universities and by private companies assumes that agricultural progress is intrinsically good and that the associated increases in production are good for economy. This presupposes that the natural world is knowable and that increasing our knowledge of nature through objective observation is possible. But the world doesn’t necessarily like to be generalized, instead it’s messy and inconsistent (as I’m sure many of us have observed in our own lives). Weather, climate, soil, farm practices, inputs, and even economic pressures affect what happens on the ground and this can vary dramatically from one farm to the next, even when farmers are neighbours. This doesn’t mean that agricultural science cannot contribute to better farms, but it does mean that the way we design these systems needs to change. We can’t assume that a one or two varieties of a crop like corn are enough to have a resilient food system. Just because those corn varieties have Bt resistance (a toxin that repels some insects) doesn’t mean that they are also drought resistant. Most varieties of a plant are bred for only one or two traits, but with climate change making weather patterns less predictable, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict which traits will be necessary in the future. Encouraging a wider range of varieties that are locally adapted (meaning that they are grown and harvested by farmers in the same place, year after year), is just one way to change the way agricultural science is designed. Minimizing the importance of locally adapted varieties that farmers can save themselves for generations could lead to decreased food security for everyone.

Seeds are just one part of the picture though and if we think about the strength present in a diversity of plant varieties, then maybe it’s possible that there’s also strength in a variety of farm practices and techniques. Diversity in agricultural science is just as important and maybe more important in agricultural science as it is in maintaining a healthy and biodiverse agricultural ecosystem. Maybe we need farmers who know how to raise pastured chickens as much as we need farmers who know how to grow fruit trees and farmers who know how to make cheese as much as we need farmers who grow oats and wheat. And maybe we need to make sure that knowledge isn’t privileged; that universities aren’t only teaching agricultural science students how much chemical fertilizers to apply and how to understand commodity markets, but also teaching them to think critically, ask questions, make observations, and understand whole systems not just a reductionist version of it.

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These bean seeds can be seen as five kinds of knowledge each in their own container. Or each bean seed can represent an individual farmer using different kinds of knowledge and therefor hundreds of slightly different beans with slightly different genetic information which will create different farm systems when they go out into the garden of the real world.


Research on Farmer Knowledge on Alternative Agriculture

Starting in 2014, I will be doing interviews on how new farmers learn about alternative agriculture. This means I’ll be talking to farmers who use organic, permaculture, biodynamic, and/or holistic farm management principles and ideas. I plan to visit incubator farms where new farmers can access relatively inexpensive parcels of land to start their farm business and also talk to people who have done internships and those who have mentored new farmers. This research will also include agricultural certificates from colleges and universities, workshops, other certification programs, websites and blogs, books, and farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing. This could be a huge undertaking, so I’m limiting my study area to a comparison between Eastern Ontario and Southern Manitoba. Formally this research project is entitled “Farmer Knowledge in Alternative Agriculture: Community Learning and the Politics of Knowledge” (because academics love colons).

 

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While not actually part of my research plan, canoes represent a slow and reflective mobility that can be seen as a metaphor for doing academic research.