There’s an interesting demographic shift going in agriculture right now. The agricultural population is drastically shrinking—right now there is 62% less agricultural producers in Canada than there was fifty years ago. Out on the Prairies, farms and ranches are becoming fewer (in Alberta, 34% less than in 1966) and larger (farms that are 5,000 acres or more account for almost half the acres underproduction in Alberta). On top of that, agricultural land ain’t cheap.
And yet, there is a growing group of people in Alberta who are getting involved in agriculture even though they weren’t raised on a farm or ranch. They are motivated to do good for food, communities and the planet and they see agriculture as a hands on way to do all of the above. We call these people new farmers.
If there is one person in Alberta who has put in the most work to get new farmers out on the land, it is Dana Penrice. Originally from Lacombe, currently farming in Manitoba, Dana is the Prairies Program Manager for Young Agrarians, a coordinator for Holistic Management Canada and an adviser to Rural Routes to Climate Solutions. Dana and Young Agrarians have worked tirelessly over the years to help new and aspiring agricultural producers get trained up in agriculture and get access to land.
In this episode, Dana and our podcast host explore the idea that if the vast majority of new farmers want to practice some form of climate-friendly agriculture (89% according to a 2015 national survey), are new farmers actually a farm solution that is also a climate solution?
Unexpectedly, during recording this episode went in a lot of different directions and tackled quite a few big issues like rethinking land access, truth and reconciliation and agriculture, finding a new term for ‘agricultural producer’ and the need for a paradigm shift in agriculture. We decided it was best to break the recording into two episodes.
In Part One, Dana’s sets the stage by explaining the obstacles new agricultural producers face when trying to get involved in agriculture. In Part Two, Dana goes over how we can unleash new agricultural producers as a farm solution that is also a climate solution out on the Prairies.
Alberta agricultural producers mentioned in this episode:
Holistic Management Canada
National new farmer survey (2015)
Macleans’ article on the plight of agricultural producers during the hard years in the ’80’s
Prices for agricultural land in Alberta in 2020
Report examining the growth of larger farms and ranches in the Prairies
Want to learn more?
After listening to this episode, we recommend downloading and listening to Episode 33 with Ash Armstrong of Armstrong Acres and Curt Hale of Maverick Livestock, Episode 30 with Misamaaki and Api’soomaahka of Kainai First Nation, Episode 27 with Mary and Peter Lundgard of Nature’s Way Farm, Episode 25 with Don Ruzicka (retired owner of Sunrise Farm) and Episode 9 with Amber Kenyon, Heather Kerschbaumer and Kris Vester to learn more about the innovative agricultural producers and land stewards in Alberta who are putting farm solutions that are climate solutions into action. Our Farmer’s Blog is also the go-to source for stories of producers in Alberta who are going the extra mile with their management practices for the land, food and their communities.