Farm Renewal Initiatives
Agriculture in Canada is at a crossroads. Since 1991, we have lost more than a quarter of the farms across Canada. Almost half of Canada’s farmers are over the age of 55 and will soon be looking to pass on their operations to a new generation of farmers. This represents over 72 million acres. Yet, eighty-five percent of farmers do not have someone lined up to take over their farm. The Agriculture Management Institute (AMI) found that only 19% of farms in Ontario have completed a succession plan. While farming communities are aging, structural, economic and practical challenges are preventing new and young farmers from getting into the sector.
The continued loss of family and independent farm operations will affect the health of our rural communities, the availability of quality, differentiated and locally produced foods, as well as the careful stewardship of our productive agricultural resources for generations to come. This combined with climate change, international political instability, and insecure global food markets, underscores the need to rebuild local food production capacity, starting with the producers.
Despite these challenges, increasing numbers of young people, new Canadians and second-career farmers are looking to pursue a future and livelihood in agriculture. As consumers and governments are making a sustainable, healthy, and regional food supply an economic and social priority, these entrepreneurs are looking for opportunities in sustainable, emerging and innovative farming sectors. Given the proper tools and supports to succeed, we firmly believe that new farmers will be the leaders in building a more resilient, sustainable and diverse agricultural sector in Canada.
Currently, in Canada there is little support in the way of programs and priorities within the current Agricultural Policy Framework (GFII) to support farm renewal. What support does exist is a patchwork of provincial initiatives and small non-governmental programs offered by regional food and farm organizations across the country. However, these efforts remain piecemeal, dispersed, and marginalized without institutional support, sustained funding and a national vision.
A comprehensive response to both these challenges and opportunities could be achieved through the creation of a Farm Renewal and Business Development Pillar in the next Agricultural Policy Framework.
Over the course of three and a half years (2012-2015), FarmStart spearheaded a national New Farmers Initiative (NFI) with Food Secure Canada (FSC). We reached out to farm organizations across the country to open up a space for dialogue and interaction. The NFI undertook a range of provincial and national consultations involving over 150 organizations and individuals. As well, we coordinated 2 national New Farmer Roundtable meetings at the Food Secure Canada Conferences in Edmonton and Halifax with over 90 participants from across the country.
We developed a set of recommended policy changes that can support a new generation of Canadian farmers, drawing from our conversations with a wide range of government representatives, farm and non-profit organizations and new farmers themselves.
The next Agricultural Policy Framework should include a Farm Renewal and Business Development Pillar with:
- Knowledge Programs: Funding training and extension, mentorship, business development and networking opportunities.
- Seed Capital: Providing start-up grants, savings and debt forgiveness programs and early stage, high-risk loans.
- Farm Transfer Interventions and Farmland Protection: Supporting farmland protection strategies, succession incentives and support, and farmland transfer financing initiatives.
For more details see our Full Farm Renewal Policy Proposal
 Beaulieu, Martin, S. 2015. Demographic Changes in Canadian Agriculture. Statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved August 22, 2016: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/96-325-x/2014001/article/11905-eng.htm
 Carlson, L. 2007. Trends in Agriculture: Who Will Take Over the Farm? Farm Management Canada Agriwebinar. Available from: http://www.agriwebinar.com/SpeakerProfile.aspx?id=1559bf24-4c40-4a59-b0b4-b7ed0dc172bc Accessed 2014 June.
 Statistics Canada 2014. Highlights and analysis: 2011 Census of Agriculture. Government of Canada. Available from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ca-ra2011/ha-sa-eng.html#a3 Accessed 2014 August.
 AMI. Planning your farm’s future: Preparing for transition to new farmers. Available from: http://takeanewapproach.ca/Farmers-Succession-Planning.htm Accessed 2014 September.