According to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Canadian farms are increasingly sustainable and technologically advanced, and they are rapidly modernizing to adapt to the changing world.
The latest data from the Census of Agriculture published by Statistics Canada shows more widespread use of sustainable farming practices, higher rates of on-farm renewable energy and technology adoption, and an increase in direct-to-consumer marketing.
The industry has also shown resilience in the face of COVID-19 by maintaining and even increasing production in some sectors despite the pandemic and labor issues.
“We know that agriculture is a major pillar of our economy and will be a key driver of our post-pandemic recovery and the latest census data confirms this,” said Peggy Brekveld, president of the Federation of Agriculture of the United Kingdom. Ontario (OFA).
The 2021 Census of Agriculture shows the following national trends:
- Nearly 65% of farms in Canada reported using sustainable agricultural practices such as rotational and winter grazing, planting cover crops, and using shelterbelts and shelterbelts, compared to 53.7% when from the previous census five years ago. Additionally, farmers are switching to more drought-tolerant crops, such as barley, which has seen an increase of almost 25%.
- More than twice as many farms report producing renewable energy compared to the last census. Solar energy leads with a 66.5% increase between 2016 and 2021.
- Farmers are using technologies such as automated guidance systems and high-tech mapping to increase production and stay competitive in the global market.
- More farmers than ever are adapting the way they sell, with direct-to-consumer delivery gaining popularity due to pandemic restrictions.
For the OFA, one of the most disappointing findings of the census is the continued and rapid loss of agricultural land due to agricultural production. From 2016 to 2021, Ontario lost 4.7 per cent of its productive farmland, which translates to 319 acres per day, up from the previous rate of 175 acres per day.
“Farmland is absolutely essential to our continued ability to produce food, fuel and fiber for Ontarians, Canadians and the world, and once it’s gone, we can’t get it back,” said Brekveld.
National census data also shows that more farmers are considering passing their farm business to the next generation, with 12% having a succession plan in place, up from just 8.4% in 2016. And for the first time since 1991 , the number of female farmers increased to 30.4% of the agricultural population.
The greenhouse industry continues to experience steady growth, reporting a 23.2% increase in production area to meet consumer demand for locally grown fresh produce. Additionally, consumer appetite for organic products has led to a 32% increase in the number of organic farms in the country.