Young farmer groups seem to be rapidly expanding across the country. Enthusiastic and motivated, they’re anxious to get going in their agriculture careers and make their marks on the industry.
Cedric MacLeod, a beef producer and farm advisor from New Brunswick, travels to young farmer events to speak about farm management, communications and operations. “They’re super positive – everybody loves farming right now,” he says.
Jill Harvie agrees. She and her husband Cole operate a 300-head purebred Charolais, Hereford and Simmental ranch near Olds, Alta. The 30-something couple work with Cole’s parents Ian and Marlene, his brothers Will and Scott, and Scott’s wife Kerrie.
Jill thinks young farmers are generating energy in the industry because they see a world of possibilities.
“A lot of people are seeing the opportunity to get into agriculture where many have left,” she says.
Cole and Scott Harvie left the operation after high school and came home to farm about 10 years ago. Since their return, the family has started work on a succession plan. Setting a direction for the future of the farm and their place in it is a tough but necessary part of business, according to Jill.
“I don’t think succession planning is easy by any means,” she says. “We’re trying to work through things and see where everyone has strengths, from building fences to building a catalogue.”
The farm has diversified over the years. They now hold an annual bull sale in the spring and publish a catalogue in advance of the sale. There’s an online sale of female Herefords and embryos each fall. Plus there’s the hay, silage, grain and grassland that fill the more than 1,000 acres on the farm.
For the Harvies, the passion comes from a variety of drivers. “We all enjoy what we’re doing and at the end of the day, we have the rural lifestyle that we want,” Jill says. “Young farmers have a fire in the belly, and they want to continue the tradition of the family farm.”
MacLeod believes youth are up to the challenge of bottling the enthusiasm generated at workshops and conferences and carrying it with them into their careers. And older generations of farmers can do much to nurture that enthusiasm and help the younger generation be aware of the realities of farming.
Jill Harvie cites the difficulties faced by operators in the cattle industry after the discovery of BSE in Canada as one example. Ten years later, they’re still working to regain their previous footing.
“We’ve been through hard times, so when we see some optimism, it sure makes us feel good,” she says.