Young Agrarians is growing!

Posted by Michalina Hunter on April 18, 2019

young agrarians 2012

Young Agrarians is growing!

April 1st, 2019 – Young Agrarians (YA), a network for new and young ecological farmers in Canada, is moving from FarmFolk CityFolk to Agrarians Foundation, a Canadian charity.

Young Agrarians, established in 2012, is a network for new and young farmers in B.C. that has grown across Canada. YA coordinates educational events from farm tours to two-day farmer “mixers”, a B.C. Business Mentorship Network, the B.C. Land Matching Program, an Alberta apprenticeship program, and an extensive online resource network. Since 2012, YA has hosted 222 events with more than 10,000 participants, representing 4,750 farmer volunteer hours. The organization has grown significantly in size in recent years, now totalling a 14 person team across B.C. and Alberta.

YA facilitates capacity building by supporting new farmers to navigate startup through farmer2farmer (B2B) learning. YA’s community economic development approach is to engage new, young and potential farmers and friends online, bring them together to network and learn on and off farms, and when ready to start farms, support them to access land, as well as receive business and production mentorship from a seasoned farmer. This approach represents a developmental funnel that works to create and engage a volume of interest that then refines down to new farmers serious about starting farms who need supports to enter the sector. The long-term goal of YA is to increase the number of new, viable, and ecological farms in Canada.

The mission of Agrarians Foundation is to educate the public by providing courses, seminars, workshops, and counselling about agriculture, farming, food processing, entrepreneurship, community economic development and environmental sustainability. Given Young Agrarians’ growth and success, the move to Agrarians Foundation will allow YA to grow across Canada with a dedicated operating structure and team. In B.C., YA is “doing business as” Agrarians Foundation.

Why grow and support new ecological farmers?

From 1991 to 2011, the Canadian Census of Agriculture demonstrated a significant decline in the number of young farm operators 35 and younger from 77,910 to 24,120. By 2016 the average age of a farmer in Canada was 55. While the sector has declined significantly in terms of succession, for the first time in 35 years, the national number of farm operators 35 and younger increased by 730 people in 2016! That brought the national number up to 24,850 young farmers, with 28% of them in B.C. It is heartening that since Young Agrarians began, we can see a slight increase in the number of farm operators.

There are significant barriers to growing the next generation of farmers. There is a direct correlation between the increasing cost of production (land and equipment) and the overall decline in young people getting into farming. Many elder farmers are retiring with no one to take over the business or share their knowledge with, which may lead to their land falling out of production or being developed and lost from farming forever.

On a global scale, climate change threatens our domestic and imported food supply, and agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. A regenerative approach to agriculture can be more resilient to the effects of climate change, and can capture carbon and improve the state of our soil, water, and air for future generations. Indeed, mitigating climate change is a significant concern and catalyst drawing new farmers into the sector. Additionally, it’s good for our health. Eating a diversity of local, fresh food is an important contributor for human health, and it supports food ecosystems that are good for the planet. The best thing people can do for farmers today is buy local food, and get more friends and family to the farmers’ markets. The more demand there is, the more potential for positive change and growth for our future.

The need is very real for immediate and strategic action to bring new ecological farmers into the industry in Canada. Since 2012, we have seen a steady increase in demand for our programs. Now in our eighth year of operation, we have worked to build up a suite of program offerings, relevant to the context of new and young people wanting to farm not just in B.C. and Alberta but across Canada. In B.C. in 2018, after several years of building networks through educational event activities, our Land Matching Pilot, modelled from Quebec’s Land Bank program ARTERRE, was able to scale up across Southern B.C. thanks to the support of a dynamic group of funders. Also in 2018, our B.C. Land Access Guide was adapted for Ontario, and will be adapted in 2019 for Alberta.

Young Agrarians looks forward to continued growth into the future with the help of Agrarians Foundation. Agrarians Foundation was set up in B.C. by the board of the Small Scale Food Processors Association (SSFPA) in 2014 to leverage charitable dollars to support all aspects of the food system and primary production. SSFPA (est. 2002), a membership-driven trade association, has been extremely busy over the years with a significant suite of services offered both in B.C. and nationally, including a partnership with Vancity and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to administer an advance payments program. Since 2014, Agrarians Foundation activities have been limited to date, and will kick off in 2019 with approximately a half million dollars’ worth of Young Agrarians programming. Young Agrarians recognizes the enormous potential to develop Agrarians Foundation in the coming months and years, to leverage the intergenerational gap in agriculture, and create more supports for new and young farmers.

Thank you FarmFolk CityFolk!

FarmFolk CityFolk has been incubating and supporting Young Agrarians in B.C. since 2012. The project has grown from a seed into a tree with this support, and the support of many incredible farmers, organizations, funders, and friends who have believed in revitalizing and regenerating the next generation of farmers in B.C. and beyond. Young Agrarians is incredibly grateful to FarmFolk CityFolk for its support and mentorship over the years, and looks forward to collaborating long into the future to support a sustainable and regenerative food system in B.C.

Let us know if you have any questions about the transition! We’d love to talk to you: farm@youngagrarians.org.

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