Eastern Canada farmers must take back markets
Despite assertions that agriculture is relatively recession-proof, more must be done, particularly in the Maritimes, according to this story, to win back markets lost to cheaper, off-shore suppliers, a conference in Charlottetown heard late last week.
March 16, 2009 By Halifax Chronicle Herald
March 16, 2009
CHARLOTTETOWN —The challenge facing Maritime agriculture in the 21st century is "taking our markets back," Wolfville, Nova Scotia-area farmer Josh Herbin told a farm conference Friday in the PEI capital.
The 25-year old winner of the first agri-food innovation award was one of the guest speakers for the annual meeting of the PEI ADAPT Council.
The council administers funding for innovative farm projects on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Mr. Herbin is a certified organic hops producer who is supplying six micro-brewing companies in the region.
He said Maritime farmers have proven they can produce top-notch food.
But they have lost much of their local market to cheaper, imported products that often don’t meet the quality standards of Canadian producers.
"Less than 10 percent of the food we produce in Nova Scotia is consumed in the province," he told the meeting. "We have to be able to compete in local markets."
Mr. Herbin said farmers markets in the Maritimes ensure many smaller-scale producers receive a "fair rate of return."
He said such markets will continue to play a major role, especially for seasonal products, but he said Maritime producers must be able to market the fruits of their labour in major grocery stores.
"We have to make it easier to choose local," he said. "Many of the cheaper foods carry a high environmental price tag that we may not even feel the impact of for another generation."
Mr. Herbin, who put plans for a photography career on hold to "pick up where my dad left off" by restoring land on the family home in the Gaspereau Valley for production, said high overhead is the main challenge facing young farmers.
He suggested financial incentives should be in place for young producers and land trusts "to ensure our land base remains in agriculture for future generations."
The industry must work to restore optimism, he said. "Your neighbours are your greatest insurance; we have to work together."
Mr. Herbin said local branding and marketing programs like Select Nova Scotia are also important.
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