Digging up the Roots: Reflecting on farm renewal discourses in Canada

Authors: Amanda Wilson*, Lakehead University
Topics: Agricultural Geography
Keywords: new farmers, sustainble agriculture, food systems
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Astor Ballroom II, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Across Canada and North America, there has been a remarkable upsurge of interest in new farmers, on both a practical and academic level. Faced with staggering declines in the Canadian farming population, a diversity of community-led projects and initiatives have emerged, aimed at encouraging and supporting new entrants to farming, as well as advocating for changes to government policies and programs. These activities have been complimented by a keen interest within popular culture and media about the phenomenon of new farmers, where new farmers are generally displayed in a highly virtuous and sympathetic light. While deeply committed to the project of supporting a new generation of farmers, the ways in which the conversation about new farmers is framed and situated raises several concerns. A failure to fully acknowledge and address some of the core tensions and structural issues at play has led to an environment that inadvertently cultivates a short-sighted farm renewal, based on individual imaginaries, self-exploitation and settler-colonial ideologies. Drawing on a review of news media, grey literature, and auto-ethnographic analysis, I reflect on two key questions: what kind of farm renewal are we seeking to (re)produce; and what space is opened and constrained by current manifestations of this discourse? In doing so, I hope to elevate possible alternative farm renewal discourses, which are seeking to both address the current pressing issue of declining farmer populations while also working to transform our food system for the long haul.

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