CANADA HAS A rich farming history. Whether it was the first French settlers along the St. Lawrence or the homesteaders who populated the Western Prairies, farmers have been instrumental to the development of our country.
As we celebrate the 150th birthday of Canada this summer, it’s natural to reflect back on how farming, and in particular grain farming, has changed since Confederation. Our forefathers endured tough conditions to get this land into production — without any of the modern conveniences we take for granted. They likely never would have imagined that something that took them all day — like harvesting a small field — could be done in just a few moments.
I used to say the changes my father has seen in farming are significant, but then I realized the changes I have seen in farming are even more profound with the advancements in precision agriculture that have been introduced within just the past decade.
From the mid-20th century to now, we went from the time of the open air tractor to a fully enclosed GPS guided cab, and from a thrashing machine and binder to a yield-monitor enabled combine.
Precision agriculture — including variable rate seeding and fertilizer placement and specialized crop varieties designed specifically for our Canadian climate — has such an influence on how we now care for the land it’s sometimes difficult to remember how relatively new much of this technology is.
We also have to acknowledge that the whole system around food production has changed. Farmers have to keep up with the changing demands of consumers and the uncertainty of political will. That said, farmers are one profession that have adapted to technology quicker than a lot of other professions. It’s interesting that there is a segment of our customer base that hasn’t embraced technology from the perspective of its use in food production. While this segment of customers have adapted technology in the other parts of their life, for some reason they continue to think that food should be produced the way it was 50 to 100 years ago. Technology will help us adapt in the future just as it has before.
Grain Farmers of Ontario celebrates the birth of our nation and we are proud of the contributions you and your families made, and continue to make, to ensure we celebrate another 150 years. If you have a moment, I encourage you to take a look at a special video we produced to mark Canada 150 — it’s available on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/ grainfarmersontario. •