Zirnhelt: Young leaders needed

A lot is at stake if new and young farmers don’t step up and take over, writes David Zirnhelt

David Zirnhelt

Observer Contributor

A discussion broke out at a local cattlemen’s meeting one evening this week. It had to do with the theme of who will look after our organizations when some of us are gone — retired, incapacitated, for whatever reason. There are songs about this theme regarding the house, the farm…

Opportunities exist for young people to be mentored. 4-H remains a wonderful training ground for new leadership. There are positions on Boards of Directors of farm organizations.

There will be four summer jobs coming up for students from the area working with Cariboo Cattlemen’s, thanks to a federal summer employment program.

A lot is at stake if new and young farmers don’t step up and take over, especially when few are standing in the way, and rather they are welcomed.

One reason Cariboo Cattlemen’s has a part-time co-ordinator is to support and amplify the efforts of the volunteers in the cattle industry.

It has been said before that the consolidation of ranches leaves fewer owner operators locally and fewer participants in our organizational efforts on behalf of small- and medium-sized farms and ranches.

Need I say that food security is best served by locally responsible and vested small farms. However, size may matter when it comes to the organizations because they represent many individuals, all of whom vote, or can speak to government and consumers.

Membership is dwindling in many local farm organizations. For example, many of the local cattle organizations no longer exist, and some consolidation is happening.

There are issues which need addressing: building trust with consumers, holding government to account for impractical regulations, furthering our knowledge about soils and crops so we can farm and ranch cost-effectively, and supporting increasingly isolated families working on the land.

Young farmers have young families and need to keep balance in their work and family lives. Thus, they are challenged to serve a broader community of like folks and businesses.

However, I say, there is a close relationship between helping oneself and helping one’s neighbours. After all, we are scarcely competitors with each other locally, provincially, even nationally. Our competitors are other regions of the world, like Brazil and to some extent the U.S.

Sharp pencils (in the manager’s hand) in order to know where we make or lose money is one important characteristic of a successful business. Another important quality is that successful businesses in farming have a plan and a practice for keeping up on developments, like understanding soil health and its relationship to the bottom line.

It is important to say that positions taken to government and to consumers about our ranches and farms business environment need to be well researched. Concerns to be addressed include water needs, support for farming strategies and products, and financing.

Isn’t it crazy that an allowable expense in one of the income stabilizing programs, Agristability, does not include soil testing, yet other government arms require it more and more for nutrient management plans.

My conclusion here, is that the next generation of farmers and ranchers, more than ever, need to take charge of their future through their organizations.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.

Just Posted

Convicted animal abuser Catherine Adams to return to Quesnel court in July

Catherine Adams is under a 20-year ban on owning animals, from a 2015 sentence in Smithers

Quesnel tosses way to victory at track and field zones

The towns throwers have increased 200 per cent since throwing cage addition

Upgrades at Alex Fraser Park in Quesnel going ahead with higher budget

The additional funding will come from the North Cariboo Recreation and Parks capital reserve

B.C. firefighters being deployed to Northern Alberta

The Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days and thousands of people have been told to evacuate

Cariboo North MLA Oakes pushes for Clare’s Law legislation

The bill will allow at-risk individuals to access info on partner’s potentially abusive past

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Most British Columbians agree the ‘big one’ is coming, but only 50% are prepared

Only 46 per cent of British Columbians have prepared an emergency kit with supplies they might need

B.C. man to pay Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party $20k over lawsuit

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Sitting and sleeping on downtown sidewalks could net $100 fine in Penticton

The measure, which still requires final approval, would be enforced between May and Sept. 30

Survey finds 15% of Canadian cannabis users with a valid licence drive within two hours of using

Survey also finds middle-aged men are upping their usage following legalization

B.C. man killed in logging accident ‘would have done anything for anyone’

Wife remembers 43-year old Petr Koncek, father of two children

Ottawa spending $24.5M to research on health benefits, risks of pot use

$390,000 will fund two cannabis public awareness

Most Read