February 11, 2015

Food strategy discussion at Family Farm screening

As published in The Erin Advocate

The creative ways in which small family farms can prosper in an era of industrialized agriculture will be the topic of a film screening and panel discussion hosted by Transition Erin.

The showing of the CBC-sponsored documentary The Family Farm will take place at 7 pm this Friday, February 13, at the Legion Hall on Dundas Street East. Admission is free.

Created by Ari Cohen, the film explores the farm-to-table process through the lens of Canadian small farmers and identifies the systemic barriers they face in running a profitable farm.

“There’s got to be a better way of growing food, something that makes us feel responsible and proud of what we’re doing,” said one farmer in the documentary.

“We’re a dying breed,” said another. “The corporate farm is slowly taking us over and there doesn’t seem to be too much concern about it. It’s not only the production of food, but we are looking after the environment and the land. When it gets into corporate hands, things get lost.”

Discussion after the screening will centre on how a coordinated plan for a sustainable food system can be promoted in Erin and Guelph-Wellington.

“These are creative times for farmers, and I’m surprised at how many young people are involved,” said organizer Jay Mowat. “If you get out to the farmers’ markets, you’ll get to know the person who is selling you your food. Family farms can still be made profitable.”

The panelists will include Mark Skinner, Manager at Everdale Organic Farm, Matt Setzkorn, Executive Director at Ontario Farmland Trust and Pam Fanjoy, Owner of The Friendly Chef Adventures and the Mill Run Eatery in Erin.

The event is co-sponsored by the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table (www.gwfrt.com), which seeks to build up production, distribution and consumption of local food. The group hopes to increase self-sufficiency, reduce impact on the environment and preserve rural communities. They support the Community Gardens Network and initiatives such as Taste Real and the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT).

The other sponsor is the Guelph chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (www.opirgguelph.org), part of an international network on social and environmental issues, founded by activist Ralph Nader.

It is difficult to adopt a conserving farm lifestyle in today’s society, and a variety of projects plus outside jobs are often needed to ensure year-round income.

In some ways, the challenges of farmers are similar to those of many other small businesses. But it other ways they are unique, because of the demanding way of life, the close connection with the power of nature and the proud tradition of public service.

Family farms remain an important part of Canada’s economic backbone, and they play a role in ensuring the survival and well-being of local communities and environments. It is a heritage worth preserving, both with government policy and our consumer dollars.