Who will fill the boots of Canadian farmers? is the question being asked across the country today. The number of farm operators in Canada under the age of 55 decreased from 265,000 to 152,000 between 1991 and 2011, while the number of older operators increased from 125,000 to 141,000, according to Statistics Canada. Moreover, the group of farmers under the age of 35 poised to fill their boots is shrinking rapidly, representing only 8.2 per cent of all farmers.
The trends of fewer operators and fewer farms show no signs of reversing and could indicate significant turnover in farm assets in the future.
In fact, the entire connection of Canadians to the land is decreasing.
In 1931, when Canada first began tracking farm populations, 3.3 million people, or 31.7 per cent of the population, were living on a farm. By 2011, the farm population accounted for only 2 per cent of all Canadians. In less than a lifetime, Canada has moved from one in three Canadians living on a farm to one in fifty. At the same time, the total population tripled from 10 million in 1931 to 33 million in 2011.
Twice every decade, Statistics Canada asks Canadian farmers and farm operators to complete the Census of Agriculture questionnaire. The data collected are used to give local, provincial and national snapshots of our farming industry and identify trends that need watching.
In fact, the Census of Agriculture is described as “the backbone of Canada’s agricultural statistics program, which identifies the who, what, where and how of our food production.” – NC