One of the struggles facing the agriculture industry is getting young people interested. There is a disconnect between people and the food they eat, and it’s a real problem when looking at the future of agriculture, and the people who will form the next generation of farmers.
In this way, I think that Saskatchewan needs to learn a bit from British Columbia.
In a recent trip to BC, I quickly noticed that they were aggressive about putting their agriculture in the forefront. You could see farms at the side of the road, dairy farms often had businesses attached, welcoming people to look at the cows while having a snack. You could stay at a farm for your vacation. Farms were right there, and you could get right into the inner workings if you wanted.
That’s not something I’ve seen to the same degree in this province. This is not to say that the province doesn’t have farms that cater to tourists, and our own tourist information centre has the Crops of the Parkland program attached. But in spite of being an ag-focused province, it’s hard to find agriculture highlighted in the same way.
Which isn’t to say every farm should suddenly have a bakery or other business attached to it, many farmers don’t have the time, patience or even the right location for such a massive change. However, it is definitely the case that a farm-based business that emphasizes the agriculture connection has potential out here, because it’s something that people are interested in seeing, and something people would take their visiting friends to see.
I remember a story my mom once told, about a friend of hers who made ceramics. She found that her business did significantly better when she moved it to the family farm, and couldn’t figure it out. The location was a lot less convenient, going from town to the middle of nowhere. But it was actually a move that made sense because people wanted to take that drive, they wanted to explore the countryside around them, and pottery was something of a souvenir of the trip rather than something people bought just because they felt they needed a new vase.
In that case, that was pottery, but there is plenty of potential in farms using the products they make in a farm-based business, something to get people out in the countryside and exploring Saskatchewan. It’s something that you see almost everywhere in BC, and it works because people have that curiosity, and people just need to exploit it. We should encourage the development of these businesses off the beaten path, because it’s something that Saskatchewan can offer that nobody else really can touch. And it would get people exploring and learning a bit more about modern farms.
Yes, there are certainly examples of this already in the province, but I want to see it encouraged, with perhaps a map that could connect people to these businesses, letting people explore and find parts of the province they might otherwise know nothing about. And they could learn a bit about agriculture in the province in the process.