(Wednesday, May 27, 2015) – The average age of farmers in NB according to the 2011 Census of Agriculture is 55.5 years. The total number of farms in NB dropped nearly 6% between 2006 and 2011. In a province where nearly all of the food consumed in the province is imported, supporting the next generation of farmers is essential for food security and the economic stability of our province, according to the National Farmers Union in NB.
Heated debate has taken place in Caraquet over the past few weeks between neighbours and a young farmer who is applying for a zoning change where he would like to open his organic, open-air, livestock operation on over 25 acres when he finishes agricultural college in another 2 years. While this type of operation is currently uncommon in NB it is a frequent model in the United Kingdom. Working with the recommended 6-8 animals per acre the ground is able to handle the animal output resulting in no odor problem. If the zoning change is accepted, the farm operation will still need to meet the minimum distances set out by the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as undergo an environmental impact assessment. Therefore, changing the zoning to agricultural land will not necessarily mean that animal production will be approved down the road.
"Succession planning for the next generation of farmers in NB is in a really sad state of affairs, worrisome really, even more so within the francophone population which accounts for less than
16% of farmers in the province. Here is a young man who wants to get involved in agriculture, who wants to provide his fellow citizens with organic food: let's support him instead of trying to kill his dream," says Kevin Arseneau, NFU-NB Youth President.
In a province with a shortage of jobs, steady out-migration from rural communities and out-migration of our post-secondary educated youth, all involved should be looking at how they can support young entrepreneurs to succeed in operating viable rural businesses.
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The National Farmers Union in NB is one of two general farm organizations in the province. Our members believe that the family farm should remain the primary food producing unit. We are working for policy change that will better support local producers, allowing them access to NB stores, institutions and schools, as well as an easy to identify NB label.
Kevin Arseneau, Youth President, (506) 251-8246
Amanda Wildeman, Executive Director (506) 260-0087