Optimism in Northern Ontario
Last week, the small community of Verner, Ontario, along Highway 17 between North Bay and Sudbury, hosted the 102nd International Plowing Match (IPM). Along the highway toward the IPM site, involvement by community members was evident: lawns, storefronts and bridges were decorated with displays to welcome travelers. The value of community cannot be measured monetarily. It is irreplaceable, and many people in rural Ontario stay rooted there because of this quality.
The CFFO was pleased to participate at the IPM last week, in order to show support for our members in the region and to hear their concerns firsthand. We are encouraged by what we saw and heard.
People in Northern Ontario seem to have an increased sense of opportunity, thanks to natural resources development there. Agriculture is also improving and expanding. With improved farming practices and upgraded technology, profitability is on the rise. But many still see the need for more processing facilities in the north. Raw products end up traveling too far to reach processing plants.
In speaking with long-time farmers in Northern Ontario, you can hear the optimism, thanks to opportunities through new crop genetics, new technology and an interest from other sectors in the North.
Still, they understand that it will take time. Infrastructure and transportation need to be upgraded to move material in and out. They see more areas opened up for farming but also for mining, particularly in the Ring of Fire. When this area begins to open up, more people will come to the north looking for jobs and to settle in.
Some shared concerns about clearing land and the waste this creates. The process is slow and not all the cleared material is recycled but wasted, which is an opportunity lost. Changes in the North are clearly complex.
Northern farmers are also looking for more research and development dollars specifically aimed at meeting the needs of those farming in northern climates. They are hoping that the government will commit more money for this important aspect of the industry.
Attending this year’s IPM gave guests from other regions in the province an invaluable opportunity to learn about the diversity of the North from those living and working in the region. They also saw firsthand the many ways that farming is succeeding in this part of the province.
Paul Bootsma is Field Services Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.