While consumers and governments are making healthy local food a priority, we face a crisis of renewal in agriculture within the next 10 years. Canadian farmers are aging and fewer young people are entering the sector. This will mean the disintegration of the social fabric of rural communities and the long-term stewardship of our farmlands unless there are new and young farmers take their place.
Yet, over the last two decades, it seems the disincentives and challenges facing new farmers have become overwhelming and prohibitive. In the 15 years preceding the 2006 Census of Agriculture, Canada lost 62% of its farmers under the age of 35. Over the next 10 years over half of the countries farm assets are expected to be transferred, but ¾ of our retiring farmers do not have a named successor. This is an unprecedented transition in agriculture and we need creative connected thinking to bring innovation and renewal to our agricultural sector.
We believe we need to act today if we hope to have successful established farmers 10 years from now.
We need flexible, farmer-to-farmer training programs, risk-minimizing ways to enter the sector, access to patient and venture capital, prime farmland protection and infrastructural support if we wish to encourage new farmers to explore and commit to a career in farming.
We want to see a new generation of farmers: young farmers, new farmers and more farmers.