It seems to me these days, as Alberta’s economy continues to plummet and international relations suffer, a much larger amount of significance and support should be willingly given to the agricultural industry.
Due to sheer conglomerated populations and the fact it remains a major pillar of the provincial community, those who need the agricultural industry to remain in a healthy state — cities and the government — sometimes take on the role of some of its biggest enemies.
Food does not magically appear in the grocery store from some far away magical land and the jobs involved in the agricultural industry cannot be treated like other jobs because they are not like other jobs.
According to the Government of Alberta 2015 Agricultural Industry Profile, the agricultural industry accounted for 2.7 per cent of the total employment in the province in 2014. However, it’s difficult to ascertain from the document if that only takes into account primary positions such as livestock producers and crop and forage producers or if it included secondary and tertiary positions including but definitely not limited to: seed cleaning plants, agrologists, researchers, fisheries and rural livestock veterinarians.
In 2014 the average hourly wage of those employed in the province was $28.12 and the median hourly wage was $25.00. In the agricultural industry the average hourly wage was $17.64 and the median was $16.48.
Regardless of those represented by that statistic, 100 per cent of the people living in the province are affected by and rely on the agricultural industry.
Those working countless hours — well past sunset, up with the sun and ungodly intervals during the night — to provide a life source for the province, actual life for hundreds of thousands of animals and drive global food security are being squandered and stepped on repeatedly.
The rage over Bill 6, Bill C-18, international plant breeders rights versus plant breeders rights and the end of the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board are all recent examples of politics and politicians de-valuing what agriculture means to the state of the province.
Continuing and increased education by farmers, rural municipality governing bodies, specialists and lobbyists on how vitally important the agricultural industry is should remain a priority.
In hopes of creating better situations in the future, this education needs to start with the young and not just the urban politicians who so badly need it.
Initiatives and organizations such as Open Farm Days and FarmOn remain key players in driving the importance of agriculture though multi-platform education strategies.
When it comes to agriculture-based websites and initiatives FarmOn.com is one of my personal favourites. Extremely educational and touchingly inspiring. Found on the “About us” page is a quote I feel sums up this conflict perfectly: “Make no mistake, fixing our food system and conserving our planet does not lie entirely with farmers. If you eat, you have a role. Welcome to the cause.”
Amelia Naismith is the new reporter for the Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer. She writes a regular column for the paper.