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Young farmers say agriculture must be seen to be profitable

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Young farmers say agriculture must be seen to be profitable
Young farmers in Canada are dealing, not just with volatility and high costs, but a growing apathy among consumers, towards what they do for a living. And they want to change that.


January 20, 2009
By The Canadian Press

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January 18, 2009 

Calgary, Alberta —It's no secret that it's a tough time to be a farmer.

The agriculture industry is dealing with volatile commodity prices, costly fertilizers and fuel, low wages for staff and consumers who want to spend less on food.

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Yet young farmers say they're also facing a far more elusive problem – an outdated stereotype about what they do and an almost total lack of public knowledge about food production.

And they say to keep the number of Canadian farmers from shrinking even further, they need to work to turn the industry's image around.

"In trying to attract young people, we have to set a positive example and make it sexy," says Leona Dargis, 23, a member-at-large of the Canadian Young Farmers' Forum.

"(Farmers) are going to have fun, it can be profitable, there's definitely opportunities, but it takes creativity to make it work."

Canada's farming population is shrinking, reaching a historic low in 2006, according to Statistics Canada figures. While one in three Canadians used to live on a farm in 1931, that number plummeted to one in 46 in 2006.

And those who have stayed are getting older.

"One of our major plans is to try to keep the young people we have on the farm," says Ian Richardson, 28, the forum's president. "Every young person we lose, it's hard to get them to ever come back, so we don't want to lose them in the first place."

Many people have a misperception about what farming looks like, says Brigid Rivoire, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

"Consumers really have that kind of American gothic idea of a straw hanging out of the mouth, they might have a couple of cows and a couple of pigs," she says, referring to focus group data.

"And they don't understand how sophisticated farm operations have become and the type of work that they do in terms of environmental programs, food safety programs and the incredible contribution that agriculture makes to this economy."

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