Ontario Agriculture

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The CFFO Commentary: The Discussion between Farmers and Urban Society Is Constant and Changing

By John Clement
July 29, 2011
A decade or more ago, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario hosted a number of seminars and other events centered on the theme of “Farming in the Park.” The title was kind of a cheeky expression designed to attract people’s attention and get them thinking about critical issues in farming. The key issue at the root of the discussion was the ongoing relationship between farmers and urban society.
During that time, the interest was clearly flowing outwards from urban society to farmers. In that timeframe, the public started displaying a keen interest in agricultural practices such as manure spreading, endangered species and even whether abandoned railways could be used as nature walks. As a result, the farm community spent a good deal of time on “right to farm” legislation, nutrient management plans and other initiatives. Urban concerns about “Farming in the Park” were clearly extending outwards from urban society to impact farmers and farmland.
Now, however, the discussion seems to be flowing back towards urbanites as they increasingly change their expectations about where food is sourced from. Recent media reports have documented that momentum is growing in urban areas to use conservation authorities and parks to take advantage of nearby markets to provide fresh fruit, vegetables and certain animal products. In some jurisdictions, the topic of backyard chicken flocks in the suburbs has also started to develop. Increasingly, topics like “food miles,” environmental footprints, and the nutrition benefits offered by local food are causing agriculture to flow back into urban areas.
Farming in the Park” continues to be an expression that causes eyebrows to rise. But it illustrates well that there is a fundamental relationship at work between farming areas and urban society. That relationship is ever changing, as societal expectations and norms change shape over time. Farmers are well served when they indeed perceive that there is an ongoing conversation with urban society, and when they’re equipped to deal with changing perceptions. It’s a two-way conversation and farmers need to ensure their voice is heard.
John Clementis the General Manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.

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