Meeting Ontario’s unsung heros

There are days when I really love my job. And today was one of them.

I was in Vineland, Ontario today as part of a series of spokesperson training sessions that my organization, AGCare, has been hosting together with the Ontario Farm Animal Council and our facilitator, media guru Wallace Pidgeon of Brick and Ball Media in Toronto.

And here, as in many other small Ontario towns over the last two months, I spent the day with some of the people who I have come to feel are truly our unsung heros, right up there with the nurses who heal us and the firefighters who save us – they are the farmers who feed us.

These folks are the backbone of rural Ontario and the cornerstone of the food chain that keeps us fed and healthy.

They all work hard, they’re all passionate about the life they’ve chosen and they all have wonderful stories to tell.

Here are some examples.

Today I met Debbie, who became a beef farmer after losing her job at General Motors six years ago and who now raises premium Simmental cattle that are sold to beef breeders as far away as Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and Georgia.

The money’s not as good as it was at General Motors, she says, but farming is a wonderful thing.

Heather spoke of the challenges and rewards of growing crops and running an apple orchard in the city of Brampton.

She welcomes thousands of city school children to her farm every year to give them a glimpse into life on the farm and how apples are grown, kids who would otherwise never get a chance to visit a real farm.

Chris is the fifth generation of his family to live on his farm, where they produce eggs and grow grapes. He speaks with pride about walking the same land that is great-great-grandfather, a blacksmith, first did more than a century ago.

And he’s passionate about caring for his hens and about the idea of showing people just what he does on his farm to help consumers understand how their eggs are produced.

Richard grows crops, devoting a third of his land to organic production as a way of giving consumers choice when they’re shopping.

He’s also heavily involved in the political side of farming, dedicating some of his precious free time to serving as a director on the Ontario Wheat Board and as Chair of AGCare, the environmental voice of Ontario’s crop and horticulture farmers.

Scott is a young egg farmer who is lowering his carbon footprint by making his own chicken feed from the corn on his farm.

He also grows soybeans and his wheat crop is exported to other countries as part of Canada’s contribution to feeding the world.

And finally, to me it was Roger, who runs an egg farm with his wife and four children, who perhaps summed it up the best when I asked him to tell me what he does: “I’m an egg farmer and I love my life!”.

Not everyone is so lucky, but it sure is a place we all aspire to be.

To a one, they spoke of their love of the land, their passion for farming and their pride in the part they play in producing safe food for Canadians and others around the world.

What a great way to spend a day.

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