Having grown up on a dairy farm near Stratford, Julie Danen knows what life for a farmer in Perth County can be like.
Sheâ€™s taken the conventional path to get where she is now: attended the University of Guelph, where she earned and BSc. in agriculture, then joined her husband and his family on their dairy farm. They took over the farm in 2006, running the operation close to Punkey Doodles Corners. She spent time in 4-H as a kid and has now been a leader within the organization for 25 years. She also had time being involved with Junior Farmers as well, using all of her experiences to run for a directorâ€™s position with the Perth County Federation of Agriculture in 2011.
Fast forward just over a decade, and Danen now finds herself as president of the PCFA.
â€śI have always been passionate about agriculture and have felt that this was an excellent opportunity to give back to my community,â€ť she said. â€śSince I have been at PCFA, I have been an executive member since 2019 and have been on the Policy Advisory Council at OFA since 2015. These experiences have helped develop my leadership skills that help me in my role as president at PCFA.â€ť
Those same leadership skills will be put to good use as Danen fulfills her term as president. The list of challenges she and the rest of the agricultural community face right now is not a short one nor is it full of easy-to-handle issues. Some things have been discussed already, while others are destined to play out over the long term.
â€śLabour shortages at the farm level and in our supporting agriculture businesses is a big issue, and itâ€™s something we addressed with our MPP Randy Pettapiece at our Spring Forum,â€ť she said. â€śHe then took it to the legislature. There is also the issue of carbon pricing and fertilizer emission regulations. There will be a lot of pressure put on farmers regarding these issues in the coming years.â€ť
One of the biggest tasks that sits before Danen and the PCFA is the issue of land use competition. According to data she provided, Danen said Ontario loses 175 acres a day to development and at that current rate, the province will run out of farm land in 193 years.
â€śThis may seem like a long time, but we need to discuss where the balance is to feed our population,â€ť she said. â€śAnother way to look at land loss would be to take all the development in Ontario and if you focused it in Perth County, we would develop all the farm land in our County in 7.8 years. This could help give you scale to the massive agricultural land loss that is occurring in our province.â€ť
It doesnâ€™t stop there. She listed supply chain resiliency and promoting agriculture education and job opportunities to youth in Ontario as just two more in an ongoing list, and itâ€™s taking all of the Federationâ€™s resources to make sure nothing gets ignored.
â€śPerth Federation directors are continuing having conversations on these topics with our elected leaders, and with the upcoming elections we plan to reach out to all candidates in our riding to discuss the importance of agriculture and how these topics affect Perth County farmers,â€ť Danen said. â€śThe PCFA is looking for candidates that are aware that agriculture in our area is a vibrant and innovative industry. They need to be aware of the impact agriculture has on jobs in our riding and Ontarioâ€™s economy. Candidates also need to understand the need for responsible land use planning to help minimize farmland losses. We need candidates that are willing to work with and dialogue with agriculture to develop programs and policies that are helpful to farmers.â€ť
Danen said that the PCFA has an all-candidates meeting for the provincial election planned on May 17 theyâ€™re holding in conjunction with the Listowel Ag Society, and will hold a similar one for municipal election candidates in the fall. She added that the Perth County Harvest Gala will be held as an in-person event this year, scheduled for November 19 in Stratford.
The Perth County Federation of Agriculture represents 2,438 farms in the County, covering 201,599 hectares of land. You can keep updated on what the PCFA is doing by visiting www.perthcountyfarmers.ca.