Green candidate offers ag opinions


Read the original article at The Post

WEST GREY -Newly nominated Green Party of Ontario representative Don Marshall thinks there are many challenges facing the farming and food industry in this area. However, some solutions could come in the form of locally produced food from family or small farms, sold through farmers' markets, a policy which is echoed in the GPO platform.

"We should be promoting local family farms," stated Marshall in a recent phone interview. "I hear you now need like 600 acres to have a viable farm. That's not really a family operation."

Born in Durham, Marshall mentioned that his father was a farmer who raised calves. Marshall worked for 13 years with the Canadian National Railway, before starting his own business, Marshall Septic Pumping. As councillor for the Municipality of West Grey, he has served two terms, after being voted in with the highest number of votes. He recently won the nomination for the Green Party of Ontario in the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound riding. His nomination came after opponent Shane Jolley withdrew at the last minute at a public nomination meeting held June 1.

The Green Party of Ontario, under new leader Mike Schriener, has now brought in a focus on rural and farming issues in its platform, including, "Ensuring that our farmers and food processors have a stable, reliable income. It's time to make healthy local food a priority." They also call for an end to the one-size-fits-all approach to regulating small farm and food operations as if they were large corporations.

Instead they call for the "Implementation of smart regulations that recognize differences in the size of operations," something which was restated by Marshall. He pointed out the disappearance of local abattoirs as a prime example of regulations forcing out small family-run farming related businesses, and that their closing was bad for the local economy, "The abattoir issue is at the centre of this, when family operations shut down, it leaves a dent in a small town."

This is an issue that has been highlighted by others in the past, including Barb Klages, a member of the Malcolm Women's Institute near Elmwood, who has said, "Something's wrong here when our local abattoirs are disappearing due to government regulation interpretations."

Another advantage, according to Marshall, of there existing in a local area many smaller farm operations as opposed to a few large ones, is the way in which this affects the local economy. He cited the example of a local tractor dealership, which in the past sold tractors to more than 100 farmers in the area, and now sells far fewer tractors, mainly to a few large cash croppers.

Marshall also mentioned the need to make farming attractive to young people: "If we want to bring back the traditional 100-acre family farm, we definitely need to encourage young farmers."

The GPO platform brings up this need, pointing out that in Ontario, there are only 7,000 farmers under the age of 35.

Something which would be good for both the local economy and smaller farmers, said Marshall, is the promotion and establishment of local farmers' markets. An article on farmers' markets in the June issue of "The Rural Voice" by Keith Roulston also promoted this policy. The article included Farmers' Market Ontario statistics showing that for every one dollar spent at a market, three dollars was spent in the neighbouring community. Marshall suggested that farmers' markets would be one possible solution to problems facing local rural economies, and that local food is also generally more healthy food. This, Marshall said, is part of the Green way, since good food keeps our bodies healthy, and in turn, helps our health care system.