By: Christina Crowley
The old saying goes, "a picture's worth a 1,000 words" and when I saw this picture posted by a fellow dairy advocate, I couldn't help but share with readers. We, as consumers, sometimes forget or don't realize the significant impact that Canadian dairy farms have on our economy-- locally, provincially, and nationally. The Canadian dairy industry alone contributes $15.2 billion annually in economic benefits, while providing 215,000 Canadian jobs.
This is especially so true in many small towns or rural communities across Canada where farming remains a fundamental way of living for many and is the main reason why small towns continue to exist. We as consumers forget the direct/indirect impact that these farms have on our lives.
Take my small town in East-Central Ontario for example - a community that 30 years ago was thriving with many farms, not just dairy farms. Our local village of 1,200 people was flourishing with many stores open on Front Street; many different schools for children to attend; and a very successful high school. Now at present day, while our community is still a beautiful hot-spot on the water and a great tourist attraction for people to visit, it isn't quite the same compared to 30 years ago.
The number of farms around our small town has dramatically decreased and only a handful, if not only 5 or 6 farms, are left. Stores that have been open for a number of years are beginning to close. School enrollment has decreased. And our high school has faced the reality of potential closure for a number of years now due to dwindling enrollment.
While I can't say that the situation we are facing is 100% due to the decrease of farms in our community, I DO believe that farms ARE the fundamental reason why rural living existed in the first place. Large farming families filled the schools. Grocery stores were occupied with patrons buying food to feed their large families and many farm help. Tractors and machinery were being serviced by the local mechanic. Coffee shops were filled with those farmers who wanted not only a cup of joe, but the daily "news and happenings" from around town. All farms got their feed inputs from the same local farm supply store and most small-town stores were being supported by these farming families.
The poster below perfectly depicts what farmer's do directly/indirectly for their communities and we, as consumers, need to step up to the challenge to continue to support our rural communities by supporting farmers. When you drink your next glass of milk or eat your next piece of cheese, you probably won't realize how big of an impact that glass of milk or piece of cheese will actually have on your community. But, you can give yourself a pat on the back for supporting the system that
supports you and your community. Having farms in our communities is beneficial not only to farmers themselves, but to us as consumers. If we support farmers, they will support our communities, and that community will be a thriving place for us as consumers to live. As was sung in the famous Disney movie, The Lion King (which I'm sure you're all familiar with!) this is a perfect example of the circle of life.