It’s a typical summer’s day on Rod Edgar’s farm in Wolseley, Sask., as he looks out onto his field that stretches over 12 miles. It’s a sunny and breezy day and there’s promise of a short rainfall on the horizon. He’s thinking about how a lack of precipitation this season will impact his crop yields: canola, soybeans, wheat, green peas and flax.
Born in 1961, Edgar owns R2D2 Farm Ltd with his wife Renette and for five decades he has been around farming. He left to attend University of Saskatchewan for a Commerce degree, then returned home in 1989 to help with the family business.
A study last year by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity finds that a significant number of Canadians know little to nothing about agriculture and farming practices. Rod has experienced this himself, as a resident of Regina, where even some of his neighbour’s children have never visited a farm.
Discussions with fellow travellers that he has met on vacation has resulted in some interesting conversations. “They’ll say, ‘I never knew where all our food comes from or how it gets into our home.’ We have to do a better job of educating Canadians about this.”
Courtesy, Canadian Centre For Food Integrity, 2019
Each new generation has seen breakthroughs in science, technology and environmental practices that have changed the face of farming. Farms are bigger and are more specialized –the Prairie farms are primarily beef or grains at this time– and the cost to do business is ‘phenomenal,’ according to Edgar.
And yet, With greater farming costs, have come incredible breakthroughs in crop yields from seed technology to fertilizer improvements. Drought and disease resistant crops have improved Rod’s yield from his grandfather’s time from 20 bushels an acre to over 60 bushels. With advances in machinery, Rod and his family can harvest his crops without help from additional farm labour.
With all these optimizations and advances, the costs of grains have been kept low, so Canadians are still paying some of the lowest prices for their food compared to other countries. Canada also has some of the most stringent regulations when it comes to food safety, according to Edgar.
What Rod wants Canadians
to know about Farming
“What I would like Canadians to know is that we are strong stewards of the land and our farms are still family owned. Ours is fourth generation with our children. There are 20,000 farmers in Saskatchewan and typically we are independent, entrepreneurs who are risk takers by nature, because of the business we are in,” said Edgar.
Edgar is confident that the younger generation is still showing an interest is their family farms. He said, “They are listening to the public and will do a better job to increase their support of our business. Social media is going to be more important than ever and our young farmers understand this. The key is to let consumers know that what we are doing is positive for them.”
Skilled professional and technical advisors are also important in the modern sophisticated business era. Edgar is an associate member and advisor to the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA), a national organization whose mission is to continually improve the quality of advice being given to farm producers and their families.
“My wife, son and daughter and I attend CAFA seminars and this helps us to keep plugged into its network of advisors. The networking helps to introduce you to people you get to know and trust,” Edgar said.
CAFA’s Executive Director, Liz Robertson, echoes and extends Edgar’s remarks that farming is big business, “Farming today is sophisticated and as in any business, it has human resource, marketing, legal, tax and financial issues.” And with an eye on the increasingly complicated transfer of inter-generational farm wealth, like Rod’s fourth generation business, Robertson offers that “CAFA is there is to provide better advice to farmers so they can make better choices.”
CAFA members provide the support to farm owners and agri-businesses looking for the best options for a successful farm transfer. Hopefully Edgar’s family farm will remain family owned for future generations.