Today’s farmers and ranchers can be a funny lot.
They spend much of their lives before the computer as the newly crowned kings of the information age, capable of gleaning the smallest tidbit of information.
And today’s modern farmers and ranchers claim to be disciples of their predecessors who passed down much wisdom on how to care for the land for generations now.
Yet when similar ideas come from modern, computer-age scientists, they are met with scepticism.
In fact, it’s usually advisable not to get them started on David Suzuki or anyone tagged as an environmentalist who today’s farmers and ranchers view as out to destroy the agricultural industry.
Yet few things make today’s farmers and ranchers prouder than the tiny bit of recognition they sometimes receive for their own stewardship of the land ... even if that does strongly suggests they, too, have more environmentalists tendencies in them than they care to admit.
These views are sometimes contradictory but maybe they also add some needed context to the fight this year over the demise of the Canada’s nearly 80-year-old federal government-run community pasture system, that includes some 62 community pastures in this province.
You may recall earlier this summer Mark Elford, head of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, calling Public Pastures-Public Interest (PPPI) _ the group opposing the cancellation of the program and the sale of the pastures _ a bunch of “crackpots’’. Elford also called PPPI chief spokesman Trevor Herriot a “paid mouthpiece” for radical environmentalists.
Admittedly, such name-calling _ while entertaining _seldom produces a solution. (It’s worth noting that Herriot said he’s paid nothing by PPPI. He also said PPPI gets no funding from Nature Canada _ the organization that co-sponsored the recent tour of the Val Marie community pasture by author Margaret Atwood and her naturalist husband Graeme Gibson.)
What especially draws the ire of today’s farmers and ranchers is celebrity outsiders sticking their noses in local affairs _ especially when they seem so unwilling to acknowledge the land stewardship of the local rural residents.
In fact, Elford proudly claimed cattle producers are “professional’’ managers that can do every bit as good a job as the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) pasture managers.
That said, it only seems logical that farmers and ranchers might be somewhat less concerned about issues like endangered plant and wildlife species inhabiting the 1.6 million acres of natural grasslands and aspen parkland that is the community pasture system.
And it might also be somewhat easier for today’s farmers and ranchers to forget why we have these government-run pastures in the first place.
The PFRA started in the middle of the Dirty Thirties dustbowl and has done much to reclaim millions of acres of marginal farmland that previously suffered from drought, soil erosion from poor cropping practices.
This might not be top-of-mind, to today’s farmers and ranchers, but the old timers who passed down their wisdom would likely be the first to say today’s better cropping techniques are a direct result of the lessons learned.
In fact, such old timers might also be inclined to tell younger farmers and ranchers eager to chop down shelterbelts they no longer see as necessary with today’s cropping techniques that we shouldn’t necessarily abandon tried and trusted practices.
After all, droughts have a tendency of re-occurring every few decades or so. And falling grain and oil seeds prices can quickly make now coveted marginal land rather marginal again.
The point here is that today’s farmers and ranchers would be well to take a breath, step back and look at such issues from a bigger perspective.
Yes, no one likes celebrities or so-called experts telling them what to do. And, yes, farmers and ranchers simply do not get the recognition for their stewardship that they deserve.
But maybe those supporters of the community pasture aren’t as off base as you might assume.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.