Changing faces of Rainy River farming: Business-savvy young people changing farming practices in the northwest.

Author:McKinley, Karen

Farming in the Rainy River region is still a strong industry, and with the rise in locally produced food, the future could be brighter, if government is serious about supporting it.

Kim Jo Bliss, a longtime farmer and the Emo Agricultural Research Station manager, said farming is becoming more diversified in the region.

Young people getting into farming now are treating it like a business. She said they want a job where they can work steady hours, be close to home and be in the house when the children get home from school.

"I quite appreciate these young people, that they are doing this so they are not working two jobs," she said. "I don't think this is easy, there are challenges every day, but they are making it work."

Eight years ago, local food was a hot topic. Now, she said, people are actively seeking out local food more often.

"That's a big positive on both sides of the spectrum," she said. "People are becoming more aware of the importance of a farmer."

That was around the time the Rainy River District Regional Abattoir opened its doors. Since then, she said they've had to jump over a lot of hurdles to keep it running, from both government regulation and local mindsets.

One big challenge is a lot of beef farmers still don't want to market their own meat, she said. Even with an abattoir and sales barn, many are still opting to sell their meat to distributors.

Another is the high tax base. Currently, they are classed as industrial, which puts them in the highest tax base. To combat this, they are working on many options, including working with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to get abattoirs a different classification to get more reasonable tax rates.

Crop numbers have risen and beef numbers remain static, and some of it has been beef farmers clearing land to grow crops as another source of income.

"Sometimes it feels like we are reinventing the wheel when we start looking at things like 'green' manure, which is what they did before commercial fertilizer," she said. "We feel like we are redoing things, but that's part of life."

Having food less travelled, Bliss said, is becoming a popular trend. Part of it is putting a face on the food people are purchasing. She related shopping at a local farmers market with a friend, and talking with the producers selling really helps people understand the local agriculture and who they are supporting.

There has been a lot of land activity and purchasing in the area. Bliss said about seven...

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