CFFO: Ontario’s Bishops release New Paper on Agriculture in Ontario

By Ted Van Den Hurk
March 28, 2014

Twenty-five years ago, the Bishops of Ontario brought forth a paper on agriculture, which was called the People and the Land. At the start of Lent this year, they released a new reflection on agriculture today called Fruit of the Earth and Work of Human Hands. It focuses on how agriculture has both changed and how it has stayed the same. The paper focuses on 10 different areas of interest to farmers and consumers, ranging from food security and community health, to migrant workers, to the importance of a strong farm community and stewardship of the land.

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The paper talks about Ontario’s great agricultural diversity, the moderate climate, the abundance of water, the productivity of the land, and the sheer variety of agricultural products available. It reflects on how farmers are called to be stewards of the land while advocating for a fair remuneration for the risks that they experience in their vocation. It talks of the many challenges, such as preserving prime agricultural land and competing in a global economy where the returns to labour are often significantly lower than Canadian workers would expect to receive.

In speaking of stewardship of the land, they recognize that farmers own and manage a large percentage of the arable land in Ontario. Today, most people understand the value of paying farmers to protect their land, waterways, wetlands and other marginalized areas. However, with the exception of a couple of outstanding examples, the cost of protecting waterways, woodlands and other marginalized areas is largely borne by the farmer. With respect to stewardship of the land, the bishops call on all farmers to recognize the significant contributions that organic production practices can make to agriculture.

The responsibilities of farmers run beyond stewardship of the land. Farmers have a responsibility towards consumers. So too, consumers need to understand that eating is a moral act and their eating choices will play a role in keeping agriculture sustainable in Ontario. In this document, the bishops reiterate their support of workers’ rights to organize in order to receive fair wages. In the area of alternative energy sources, the Bishops ask everyone to reflect upon our fuel dependent lifestyle. This lifestyle has spurred agriculture to turn food into fuel. In their view, we need to a longer range vision for more sustainable energy production and consumption.

The bishops encourage all Christians to visit their website and review the paper. There is also a study guide which has been developed to be used by rural, agricultural and urban people to explore together our joint responsibilities for ensuring sustainable food production into the future.

Ted Van Den Hurk is the Vice President of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.