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Agriculture

“The Family Farm” is a poignant short film about a farmer’s relationship with the land

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4 minute read

Anna Kuelken was not even born when I left Fort Assiniboine in the early 1980’s to pursue a life that didn’t include farming. I wasn’t particularly well-suited to it, though for the first 18 yeas of my life, I knew little else.

Anna was raised on a family farm in that same tiny community a few hundred kilometres NW of Edmonton. Her experience may not have differed much from my own; things don’t change quickly in a community of 150 hardy souls more than 200 miles from the nearest city, in this case Edmonton.

Her father Peter and I were of a similar generation.  Although a few years older than me, we grew up attending the same small school, and knowing most of  the same people.  To give a sense of size, there were 19 in my high school graduation class, the 2nd largest in history. Our people farmed for the most part, and almost all had other jobs off the farm to support their habit. Today the notion of the “family farm” is challenged more than ever in its history.

While the family farm I was raised on has been gone from the family for 3 decades, Anna is still very attached to land she grew up on.  She recently submitted this short film she produced about her father’s relationship with the land. It examines the changing dynamic and circumstance of the family farm; at times seeming very much like the now almost 40 years removed from my own day to day experience, and yet, not that different.  Farmers still work off the farm to support their habit, just like my dad did in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. It remains a solitary and noble lifestyle for those who have survived.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the relationship between a farmer and the land they farm.

Anna’s father Peter Kuelken provides some background:
…This  farm and I became acquainted in 1958. I was 2 years old and was the child of immigrant parents who loved us as dearly as they did the country they had come to. It was at a very young age that I was taught about the power of the land. I learned from my parents the importance of the respect for the air the water the soil and the life that flourished there. In my later years returning to the farm was because of the love that had been in my life from my family and community.
My return was because of the sense of security of this life that was imbedded in my soul as a child.   The miracle of life that emerged constantly around us and the curiosity it created was something that my wife and I wanted our children to embrace and have in their lives. We also followed the path of the conventional agriculture but returned to a holistic model that is sustainable.  We now use technology and the tools that it provides to be better stewards of this land.   I am so proud now that my children carry this flag of stewardship in its truest sense.  They now have become like our indigenous people in the understanding of the importance of this land which sustains us. The circle of life continues…”

by Peter Kuelken

Read more stories from Todayville.com. 

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Lieutenant Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Board Member Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) Musician, Photographer, Former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Agriculture

Federal Government Examines Living Conditions for Thousands of Foreign Workers

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Canada Improving Foreign Worker Living Conditions

The Canadian agricultural economy relies heavily on foreign and migrant workers for its continued prosperity. While there has been a call to take action and overhaul the foreign worker program for years now, the pandemic has pushed those priorities even further. Living conditions have long been in need of change, but the government is now looking to seriously improve the conditions for these workers — primarily from a public health perspective.

While some actions have already been put in place — such as consultations with industry leaders, provinces and territories as well as foreign workers themselves — we’re still in the beginning stages of the consistent change that needs to happen in order to thoroughly improve living conditions.

Health Risks

As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept all around the world, it specifically highlighted some of the shortcomings of the current system for Canadian foreign workers in terms of health and safety. By June 2020, hundreds of Canadian agricultural workers were infected on the job, causing two fatalities.

Since many of Canada’s foreign agricultural workers rely on consistent income from their often labor-intensive jobs maintaining farms and equipment, they can’t afford to miss work, even if they’re sick. Staying home may not be much better. Housing for foreign workers keeps everyone in close quarters. Housing standards are often inconsistent, leaving many workers in cheap communal units that work as a perfect breeding ground for the virus.

Even many workers who needed to quarantine described being kept in conditions that didn’t allow for social distancing and didn’t provide adequate supplies for the required length of the quarantine. Since reports vary and standards tend to be inconsistent, it’s clear that there’s a disconnect between the government’s vision and the reality of the living conditions these workers are facing.

Seeking Input

The government understands that things are in need of change. Although there has been a push for improvements in the past, the pandemic has made clear just how unsightly the living conditions are. As a start, the Government of Canada is seeking input until 22 December 2020 on proposed requirements for foreign worker living conditions.

While this is a move in the right direction, requirements only make a difference if they are upheld, and that will be the key to ensuring conditions are actually maintained and improved. It’s about consistency on a municipal and local level, not just federal regulations.

Mexico Halting Foreign Workers To Canada

For now, Mexico has halted their foreign workers from coming to Canada — specifically as a result of the deaths associated with foreign worker COVID-19 outbreaks. While this doesn’t change the conditions for those already living in Canada, it did stop over 5,000 new workers from entering the country over the summer. Mexico’s ambassador to Canada maintains that this is an action of solidarity with Canada.

What Needs To Change?

While policy changes and new requirements are important to the equation, those requirements and policies need more regulation in order to uphold them on a local level. There also needs to be a push towards better working and living conditions for foreign workers on the whole — not just in terms of residencies.

Reducing the number of hours these workers spend on the job, paying them better wages and providing them with universal health care are all changes that would benefit the health and safety of foreign workers — and incentivize workers to stay home if they’re sick. They are an integral part of the Canadian economy, and they deserve better rights and conditions.

Making Steady Improvements

Although the Canadian government is just now beginning to make strides towards improving conditions for their foreign workers, they’re definitely heading in the right direction. From here, things will look up as long as they remain committed and make sure they keep human rights a priority.

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Agriculture

Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

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Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

It’s no secret that agriculture has contributed to climate change through various means. For example, you may know that livestock generates greenhouse gas emissions due to how farms process it. That said, it’s now clear that farmers have found sustainable ways to offset those contributions. In Canada, it’s all about energy use.

Here’s how Canadian farmers have become more efficient as they raise crops and livestock, setting a standard the world should follow.

Energy Demand and Consumption Have Fluctuated

The demand for energy has increased across the agricultural sector as a whole. However, it’s key to note that farmers have begun to use less energy despite that fact. That points to more efficient practices. The farmers who complete their work productively save time, money and energy. As a result, Canadian workers have reduced their energy consumption per dollar by 17%. That’s thanks to sustainability.

The most common energy sources include fuel, gas and electricity. It’s how farmers use those resources that counts. Combined with technology choices and new practices, it’s clear that efficiency is more achievable than ever.

What Contributes to This Phenomenon?

It’s crucial for people in agriculture to explore eco-friendly alternatives. The grasslands that many western Canadian farmers cultivate contains excess carbon, so you can imagine what the country as a whole holds underneath its surface. Farmers have now adopted new methods to adjust how they harvest their crops. These systems are better for production, as well as soil and seed health overall.

The agriculture industry has gone through many changes, too. There are fewer farms — but those that still operate have employed agricultural technology to be as efficient as possible. These tools include different equipment that cuts down on time to increase proficiency. Plus, it’s now more common to use solar power as an alternative to traditional energy solutions.

Why Accuracy and Precision Matters

It’s a lot easier to be energy efficient when you don’t waste your resources. The means farmers practiced before they used specific innovations often created a time deficit. If you have a smaller machine, you likely need to do twice as much work. However, when you have access to equipment that fits your field, you don’t have to be as wasteful. The accuracy and precision created by technology make this a reality.

Soil Conservation Is Led by Ranchers

Many farmers have looked to ranchers for help. It’s a native part of ranching to preserve topsoil and other elements that are inherently sustainable. As a result, it seems like ranchers have been leading the charge against climate change for decades. The tactics they use to avoid tilling soil, for example, help preserve the amount of carbon that lies underneath the Earth’s surface.

The “no-till” practice is efficient in its own right. Rather than till your soil to plant a new crop, you simply leave behind what’s already there. This method is much better for soil nutrition, and it can keep carbon exposure at bay. As a result, you have much fewer carbon emissions. In general, the idea of soil conservation isn’t a new one, but old tricks can still work alongside modern technology.

The Future of Agriculture in Canada Looks Bright

If farmers continue on this path, it’ll be clear that climate solutions are at the forefront of their minds. These efforts create more benefits for them as they save time and money. Plus, there’s always the responsibility of maintaining the planet’s health. After all, without a strong ecosystem, agriculture would suffer. Through means that are more accurate and conservative, Canadian farmers have been able to become more efficient. Click here read more stories by Emily Folk. 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.

 

 

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