Ask a child where food comes from and he or she will likely say, “from the store.” We adults also tend to take the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products for granted. Only during crises do we realize how fragile our food supply is.
Having lived in a rural community for the past thirteen years, I have gained a much better understanding of the problems farmers have in providing us with our daily bread. Unlike most businesses, farmers are at the mercy of the weather. They plant their crops in the hope of a bumper harvest while fearing the worst. Here in Alberta, the danger of grain being destroyed by a few minutes of hail is all too real. We can get frost in August, ruining several months of work. In fact, my next door neighbour’s potato and zucchini leaves turned black when the temperature dipped to 2 degrees Celsius during July.
Those brave souls who raise animals face their share of problems too. Like humans, animals suffer from a variety of illnesses and parasites. Though vet care is cheaper than a person visiting a doctor, it still adds to the farmer’s expenses.
Market prices effect all farmers, some more than others. Even so, they need to take profitability into account each spring. I’ve seen years when pork sold at such a low price that some farmers gave it away to people. During the BSE scare, beef prices sank as people avoided buying it. Wheat prices have hit worrying lows in past years as well. No wonder the children of farmers tend to move to the cities for jobs and their parents work to supplement their incomes.
The Canadian Wheat Board recently lost its monopoly, allowing farmers to sell their grain to whoever will buy it. This has had the unintended consequence of criminals stealing wheat and canola. In the past, farmers had no worries regarding the safety of their silos. Now they’re moving them close to the house so that they can spot anybody trying to rob their bins.
Apart from all these worries, farmers have tons of paperwork to deal with from the government. I rode home from a meeting with a man who listed all the picayune details of what the government required of him. I couldn’t believe all the regulations that bind those who supply us with food.
Local growers have to contend with international competition in jurisdictions where tariffs haven’t been set. Though the North American Free Trade act has lowered some, as far as I know, stiff competition still exists.
Family farms are fast disappearing as well. As more and more people age and their children leave for the city, corporations continue to buy up land and use giant machines to reap the fields. A day could come when all rural land will be in the hands of corporations.
Not being a farmer myself, I don’t understand all the details of the business. Even so, I have a greater appreciation for their labour. If I can, I go to farmers’ markets and buy local produce. Doing that puts a human face on those who work the land, plus it gives them a hand financially.
I’ve also grown to appreciate the hard work that goes into writing a book. My first two paperbacks are available at the Bruce Atchison’s books page. My newly-published book is called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Check Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers for details regarding this inspiring testimony of God’s grace.