On August 6 the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) put on an Eastern Ontario farm tour for Premier Kathleen Wynne, who on that day was acting in her second role as Ontario Agriculture Minister. This tour acted as a way not only for farmers to tell the Government of Ontario what is happening in agriculture, but also allowed many farmers in the region to showcase their amazing farms and hard-working families. Over the course of the day Premier Wynne visited beef, dairy, swine, vegetable and crop farms, and the Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers before finishing the tour at my family’s egg and crop farm.
During her stop at my farm, my family was able to give a tour of our egg room where we gather our eggs, and even had Premier Wynne gathering a few on her own. This means that the dozen eggs you just bought last week may have been gathered by the Premier! Even though we had a few important people in our barn and got to showcase our facility, we still strictly followed bio-security practices as all farmers must to ensure the safety and the health of our animals. This meant that the press, the staff from the Premiers office, and the Premier had to put on plastic boots to avoid any contamination or bacteria coming into our barn from their shoes. It made for a great opportunity for learning, but not great for talking – plastic boots make lots of noise when walking!
We also had the opportunity to show the tour a few of the crops we grow including soybeans, an important crop for farmers in Ontario. I even taught the Premier how to check if the nodules on the roots (formed by a nitrogen fixing bacteria that can provide nitrogen to the plant) were still healthy by breaking them open to see the colour was a fleshy pink like it should be. As an agronomist as well as an egg farmer, it was great being able to teach people about both.
The last part of the tour on our farm was an exciting opportunity for a few young farmers and myself to meet with the Premier. We were able to share the successes and struggles that young farmers experience in today’s changing agriculture industry. We are very optimistic about where agriculture is going and where it will take us, but are also cautious because of the challenges that lie ahead of us – including financials, societal perceptions, and labour availability. We want to ensure that consumers know that we have their and our animal’s best interests in mind and hope to have the chance to educate them more about what we do. It is a daunting but exciting job to farm and while there are many differences between farmers from beef to dairy to eggs to strawberries, the sentiment between us is the same – we all farm because we love it.