New farmers and food policies in Canada

  • Julia Laforge Lakehead University
  • Ayla Fenton Farmer and on Board of Directors, National Farmers Union
  • Virginie Lavalée-Picard Farmer
  • Stéphane McLachlan University of Manitoba

Abstract

As the demographics of farmers are shifting, the ways agricultural and food policies affect and influence the decision-making and behaviours of new farmers is also changing. At the same time, there is growing interest in contesting and rebuilding Canadian food systems to address environmental and social injustices. Many new farmers are interested in agro-ecological approaches to agriculture, including both ecological practices and community-based economies. This paper examined the findings of a national survey of 1,326 new farmers, to explore challenges and opportunities in the Canadian food and farming system, as well as the municipal, provincial, and federal policies that they recommended. We also examined which programs are serving new farmers best, and how these successes could be translated elsewhere. We found that an increasing number of new farmers are coming from non-farming backgrounds and are women, potentially challenging the status quo. In particular, respondents reported facing difficulties in accessing agricultural knowledge, and that available institutional resources may not be appropriate to new types of ecological farming practices. The most significant barriers concerned affordable land and financing their developing farms. Nevertheless, these new farmers are finding diverse ways to develop their livelihoods, potentially transforming Canadian agriculture. A national food policy that works with local and regional partners and that recognizes the changing realities of new farmers is a necessary first step in helping build a sustainable, healthy, just, and resilient food system in Canada.

Published
2018-09-30