Who needs farmers anyway?


Apparently this is a question that is being asked in other Western nations besides Canada. As this article from the BBC points out,

“…instead of farmers trying to grow food on expensive land in overcrowded islands, wouldn’t it be better to turn the countryside over to recreation and leisure?

Why not just import the food we cannot grow profitably at home, especially now that the European Union has expanded to include countries like Hungary and Poland, which produce high quality food for far less money?”

Though the article does go on to redeem itself by promoting the idea of sustainable economics through the local production of food, this crass statement does highlight the fact that people have a frightening naivety when it comes to food. And a frightening faith that other countries, less short-sighted than themselves, will always make sure there’s enough to go around for everyone.

Interesting. Once farmland is lost, it is essentially lost to agricultural forever. “Forever” is a long time. What happens if other countries we rely on to grow food decide they should build housing developments and shopping centres and industrial parks on their farmland as well? What happens if other countries continue to misuse their farmland to the extent that it all becomes useless? (see my post on the looming water catastrophe in Asia, “Planet Dustbowl”).

My friend Dave Sands is deeply involved in trying to save some of Canada’s best farmland from suburban development. This land, the most productive in Canada and perhaps some of the best farmland in the world, is rapidly being lost to developers making a quick buck, and local governments who are sorely tempted by the possibility of reaping higher taxes than they could ever get from farmland. As Dave says, “because people will eat forever, we must plan to farm forever”.

Again, to quote Dave:

“As consumers, with the shelves at our food stores always full, we often forget the importance of our farmlands and the farmers who have given us food security. It is difficult to think this will ever change, but unfortunately, food supplies for Western nations are becoming seriously threatened — a sad reality in many parts of the world. These concerns are intensified with desertification occurring at an alarming rate. The UN reports that one-third of our world agricultural lands are at risk at a time when the net population of the world is growing the size of the city of Vancouver every two days. To add to these concerns, the USA, which is responsible for Canada’s additional food supplies throughout the year, is losing 50 acres of prime farmland each hour, and is expected to be a net importer of food within 40 years.”

Who needs farmers and farmland? Why should we concern ourselves with being able to feed our own population? Check out this article:

Our fragile food supply
The capacity of the world’s commercial agriculture to produce sufficient food faces some severe tests