The Farmer - A Tribute


THE FARMER, by Arnold Malone


There are only two sources of food and one is soil and the other is water. It is the farmer who husbands the soil, plants the seeds and tends the animals that provide the wholesome food we serve and relish.

At the time of Confederation 87% of Canadians were rural; that was a time when most people were in tune with farm life.

Today, friends gather for brunch, some have a working lunch, those in a hurry consume fast food, the labourer has a lunch bucket and the upper class dine in splendour and it is the farmer who feeds them all.

Farming is a different occupation. They complete their 45-hour week by Wednesday noon. They have knowledge about soil science, water hydrology, animal science, nutrition, mechanics, welding, carpentry, plant pathology, plant storage, food safety, animal breeding, record keeping, economics, marketing, and community development.

As Canadians we would be well served if more persons had the broad skills of a farmer. Today we live in a world of specialists who know a lot about a little. The farmer is a person who knows a lot about a lot. It is for that reason that farmers are not easily fooled.

Farmers know the essence of life. They know how to support themselves and how they can live without the handouts and privileges that so many others assume to be essential. They are in tune with the beginning of life and acceptant of life’s end.

Today, farms are fewer, larger and more business like but we would be better off if more citizens had the many skills of the farm community. It is difficult to see the world whole when our occupation is a dedicated to a single piece of a complex whole.


What is so unique about farmers is their independence. Most jobs require daily group consultations on how the day is to be planned and executed. Farmers are alone with their decisions.

The farmer does not sit through meetings to know what should be done tomorrow nor does he/she suffer the evaluation of others at the end of each task.

Farming is a job with long hours. They exercise without a pedometer, eat hardy meals and consume fresh air. In this occupation you sink or swim by who you are and there is no one to blame except bad luck and yourself.

Today, most citizens are removed from farm life. When my life began, eighty years ago, 31.7% of Canadians were farmers, today, only 2% are. The result is, food-producers have a shrinking influence. For many citizens food originates in grocery stores. How it got there isn’t questioned. If the shelves are bare it is the stores fault

Irrespective of the essential characteristic of farming there is a widespread disregard for the industry’s base. Most prairie cities have an option to grow over marginal soil but opt to grow aggressively over large tracts of class #1 and #2 soil.

The expansion of the city of Edmonton north and south on rare deep black soil is a disregard that is hard to stomach. The world population, now 9.4 billion, allows 2 billion to suffer food shortage. Yet Edmonton planners opt for the ease of bulldozing the highest grades of soil as back-fill against houses and factories. Sadly quality soil is seen as a commodity to be bought and sold rather than a resource to be preserved.

Canadians are past due for provincial and/or federal governments to assume their responsibility to protect our remaining highest classes of soils and provide a test for removing such soils from food production.

Left to nature, it takes 20,000 years to produce an inch of topsoil. Cities are not allowed to expand over valued mineral deposits but soil is sadly undervalued.