Amherst, Nova Scotia: When my partner Bryan and I were first starting Broadfork Farm, we took a farm business planning course (through Everdale). One of the classes was devoted to Risk Management. It sounded like it was going to be boring and dry, but instead it was one of my favourite parts of the business planning process.
We were encouraged to think about all the different risks that could jeopardize our farm business. We listed weather risks, production risks, marketing risks, financial risks, personal relationship risks, and policy risks. For each risk, we needed to come up with actions to lessen our chances of these risks impacting our farm in a negative way.
We manage our risks by having an irrigation system, using cover crops, planting a diversity of crops and varieties, and selling through various marketing channels.
When it came to figuring out ways to manage for policy risks, it was a little less clear what we should do. Obviously, there are policies that affect our farm. What if we no longer could save seeds? What would happen if food safety regulations became unobtainable for small-scale farms like ours? How would our Organic certification be impacted if GM alfalfa contaminated the alfalfa meal we were using for fertility?
The two things we felt we could do to help manage for policy risks were: 1) to be informed of what policies might affect us, and 2) to make sure our opinions on those policies could be heard.
And, it just so happens, that the National Farmers Union is around to help us with both of those risk management strategies. So joining the NFU was basically a business decision for us.
Two seasons ago, a logging company clearcut about 500 acres of woodlot adjacent to our farm. We were very concerned about how this might impact our farm. Our groundwater is replenished from natural springs throughout this woodlot and the woods are also home to many large and small mammals who might need to spend more time on our farm seeking local food options.
We spoke up about our concerns to the logging company, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, and the Minister of the Environment. Ultimately, we felt that our small lone voices were not big enough to compete with the much louder (and wealthier) voices of larger companies and industries. We needed to join our voice with the voices of others who share our respect for the small family farm. The National Farmers Union represents a collective voice. And we need to grow that collective voice so that together, our cries are just as loud, if not louder, than those of corporations and large industries.
Never forget that under Canadian law, silence is considered consent.
To look into becoming a member of the National Farmers Union, go here.
If you are not currently a farmer, you can also join as an Associate Member. While you won’t have a vote (only farmers can vote…no corporations, commodity groups, or government officials may vote), you will stay informed about what’s happening and learn about actions you can take. You will also be adding your voice and standing in solidarity with family farmers from across Canada.
And check out my blog post about the amazing time I had at the recent NFU Youth Retreat in Victoria, BC, and networking, presenting on the NFU and partying with the Young Agrarians!
In Solidarity, Shannon Jones, farmer at Broadfork Farm, River Hebert, Nova Scotia