Manitoba's growing number of young farmers offer hope for the future

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The growing number of young Manitoba farmers is a hope for the future

Anastasia Fyk joined the family farm because she believed she could play a role in the transition to greener farming.

The growing proportion of farmers under the age of 35 in Manitoba gives hope for the future of the profession. Anastasya Fyk, 33, is one of the generation of young people returning to this profession in the heart of nature.

When Anastasya Fyk left the family farm after having graduated from high school, she never imagined that she would ever live there again.

But, after eight years abroad, concerns about climate change have brought the young woman back to her family's land, northwest of Dauphin, in a bid to find a more sustainable way to produce food. food.

I am trying to get back to the way we used to farm, but using new technologies, she explains.< /p>

More and more young people are choosing to devote themselves to farming or farming.

According to newly released 2021 Census of Agriculture data, Manitoba has the highest proportion of farm operators under the age of 35 in Canada. In this prairie province, 11.5% of agricultural workers are in this age bracket. The national average is 8.6%.

This is up from 2016, when Manitoba also had the highest proportion of young farmers, i.e. 10.8%.

Anastasya Fyk's family grows buckwheat, wheat, oats and canola.

She practices permaculture, a natural, self-sustaining method of growing food that maintains healthy soil.

The detrimental effects of industrial monoculture on the environment are of concern to Anastasya Fyk. She does, however, have hope given the changes she sees in the way people grow food.

We could sequester a lot more carbon by doing things like permaculture instead of annual crops, says the farmer.

The latest statistics showing the increase in the number of young farmers in Manitoba are encouraging, according to Anastasya Fyk, but the sector still faces many challenges, which is causing more and more people to leave this environment.

I don't find it surprising that Manitoba has the most young farmers, but we are still losing workers. There are not enough to fill the void.

Anastasia Fyk decided to take over her family's farm northwest of Dauphin, out of concern for climate change and a desire to ensure the land was cared for.

There were 34,780 farm operators in Manitoba in 1991, the first year Statistics Canada collected this data in its Census of Agriculture. This number has declined with each census period since, dropping to 19,465 in 2021.

The number of farmers under 35 in Manitoba has dropped to a minimum from 1965 to 2011, before rising again in 2016 to 2175, then to 2230, during the last census.

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Despite the increase in the number of young farmers, the average age of Manitoba farmers continues to decline, from 53 in 2016 to 54 in 2021.

Statistics Canada also reports an increase in the percentage of women operating farms in Manitoba, from 23.8% in 2016 to 26.5% in 2021.

It's rather It's a good thing we're no longer in a son-in-the-making scheme, says Colin Penner, a professor of farm management at the University of Manitoba. Succession is no longer necessarily based on gender.

These signs are encouraging after a difficult period for Manitoba farmers, who endured drought and a grasshopper infestation last summer, followed by a prolonged wet spring that delayed planting.

This year the seed was nothing like what I experienced, or what my father experienced…and he's been a farmer ever since several decades, says Jamal Abas, 30.

Jamal Abas, 30, is one of a growing number of young farmers in Manitoba.

His family raises 190 cattle on a farm near Hodgson in the Interlake region. It also grows wheat, canola and oats.

In addition to being a full-time farmer, Jamal Abas is studying law, but says farming will always be a way of life for him.

It's an important feeling to run your machinery on land that your grandfather, great-grandparents, great-uncles and great-aunts cleared with axes and horse-drawn plows. horses.

Jake Ayre also comes from a long line of British farmers, dating back over seven generations.

25-year-old Jake Ayre left the family farm near Minto, Manitoba to attend university in Winnipeg, but was once again drawn to the farm.

When the 25-year-old left the family farm near Minto, in southwestern Manitoba, to attend university in Winnipeg, he had no intention of get back into the business.

“I worked in town, but I found myself daydreaming on the farm all the time.

—Jake Ayre, Minto Farmer

I found that I was much happier at home, on the farm. It's something I saw myself doing and I felt fulfilled, says Jake Ayre.

In addition, the interest of younger people in the field seems have grown, as indicated by the number of students in Colin Penner's class at the University of Manitoba.

In recent years, our classes have been filled capacity, says the professor, who adds that challenges await aspiring farmers.

According to Anastasya Fyk, many families sold their farms during the difficult economic times of the past decades.

She believes that young people who start the business often take over family farms or practice small-scale farming, direct to consumers. Getting started as a first generation farmer is really not an easy task.

There are a lot of hurdles like land prices and machinery which is very high. For someone who has never done farming, it's a huge risk to take.

Anastasya Fyk says he is in party felt compelled to return because she feared what might happen to her family's lands if she did not take them back.

If it ain't me , I'm not sure anyone else will, concludes the young farmer.

With information from Cameron MacLean

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