The “great migration” of farm children to off-farm jobs has fueled the Canadian economy for more than a century, according to a new report from the Agri-Food Economic Systems consulting company in Guelph which is headed by Al Mussell and Doug Hedley.
Three million Canadians have made that transition in the last 80 years, the report found, and the migration was particularly strong during the 1950s and 1960s.
Society benefitted from this migration of hard workers with good educations and skills.
Farm-gate food prices remained low, yet farm revenues increased and farming families have moved into Canadian society’s middle-income range.
‘If some farms today are seen as excessively large, or ‘industrial’ by some, it is because they have evolved organically as part of this process on an independent, free-enterprise basis,” the report says.
The migration and transitions were not always easy and there were “countless personal struggles,” says the report.
Farmers have adopted new technologies and Canada adopted new policies and public institutions to ease the transitions,” the authors say.
And it’s not over.
It is an “ongoing process of social, economic and technological development.
“It is a demanding and difficult process and one that has yielded enormous benefits to all Canadians, not just those connected to farming or the food industry,” they write.
But the Canadian economy can no longer count on huge numbers of farm children to fill jobs. Eighty years ago a third of the Canadian population was living on farms. Now it's two per cent.