LONDON — After a hectic and challenge-ridden year, Ontario farmers are cautiously optimistic about 2021.
After all, the food chain survived. Food got to market and in most rural areas COVID-19 turned out to be more like the seasonal flu. It was harder to find equipment parts and sometimes hard to find friends but farmers got through it. For some farmers 2020 was a banner year. Community-supported agriculture and direct food sales saw demand shoot up. There is now a run on Christmas trees and firewood but they don’t quite replace toilet paper in April for volume sales.
Harvest weather was gladly welcomed, as were commodity prices for corn, soybeans and wheat. Farm Credit Canada forecasts commodity prices will be strong for the first half of 2021.
Chatham-Kent crop farmer Mark Huston is far more optimistic about 2021 than he was for 2020, citing the rise in prices and the political situation in the United States being an impetus for Canada to also finally strengthen its own farm programs. In addition, Huston says that if tensions between the U.S. and China are weakened, with a new U.S. administration, it could indirectly help farmers in Canada.
Oxford County dairy farmer Tracey Arts says that farmers have reason to be optimistic despite the challenges caused by COVID-19. One positive development has been that more people have been buying locally and she hopes that doesn’t change next year.
Optimistic or not, farmers are resilient and seem ever-ready to roll with the punches.
“Whether we have livestock that count on us to provide for them, or crops that need to be tended to, farmers have proven that we can adjust and that we’re able to,” Arts said, adding that farmers can’t control weather.
In Essex County, grain farmer Brandon Byrne operates a 1500-acre cash crop farm and says that he hopes 2021 will be a much better year from a health and personal perspective for farmers in his area. Harvest hasn’t been too bad despite all the challenges and as for the future, he was philosophical.
“In our business,” he said, “we’ve learned to take things in stride when it comes to our operations, whether it be factors of weather or whatever else. 2021 will be no different.”
Emery Huszka operates grain farms in Lambton and in Chatham and takes much the same view. Though there are numerous political and economic issues stemming from COVID and other challenges for which a solution is vital going into the new year, politics might collide more with the farming industry, he said. But farmers, as they always do, must keep working through any challenges and see where the cards fall, he said.
Operating a grain farm near Waterford in Norfolk County, Scott Persall said that he is slightly optimistic as farmers in the area have had a decent crop this year. When it comes to grains and oil seeds, he says, the market has mostly stabilized, though there have been some challenges, one of them being delivering contracts. All in all, next year shouldn’t be too bad.
“In spite of the challenges, we should be able to work through the issues,” he said.”