April 19th, 2018

Honourable Minister Colwell,

The average age of a Canadian farm operator in 2016 was 55, an increase over the recorded average in 2011, which was itself an increase over the recorded average in 2006. Our province is not immune to this national trend with the average Nova Scotian farm operator aged 55.4 (2011). With our farming population aging, and fewer young people choosing a career in agriculture, supporting and investing in new entrants is more important than ever

The programs announced Monday, April 16th by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA), under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, exclude farms earning under $30,000 in gross sales. We have heard, informally, that a separate program for farms earning under $30,000 is to be created and offered come fall 2018 – some six months later than the program designed to serve larger farms and established farms.

As a former Deputy Minister of Business once said to our Executive Director, “Clearwater Seafoods started with two men selling fish off the back of a truck.” Every business starts somewhere and, more often than not, a business starts small. Thanks to our Farmers’ Market Sector, new entrants have a viable marketplace for launching and incubating their farm business, whether they are a primary producer or a value-add agricultural business.

We share your vision for financially successful farm businesses. We are however very concerned that new entrant producers have been overlooked to the detriment of our agricultural sector and our provincial economy.

Minister Colwell, we request a seat at your table to assist in shaping programs which will serve our shared mandate to foster a strong agricultural sector in our province – an agricultural sector which is sustainable, diverse, accessible to new entrants and an economic driver for our province.

We wanted to share with you one of many pertinent stories of new entrant success – that of Bramble Hill Farm in Pictou County and owner/operator Cathy Monroe.

In 2017, thanks to an incentive of NSDA’s Homegrown Success Program, along with a loan from FarmWorks Investment Cooperative, a successful crowd funding campaign and personal savings, Bramble Hill Farm put up a heated greenhouse to significantly extend their season and their production. They now sell fresh greens year round at two farmers’ markets and are weekly suppliers to three retailers around the province.

Bramble Hill Farm owner and operator Cathy Monroe has seen exponential growth in her business since accessing this funding from NSDA. “My business has experienced a 140% sales growth in the first quarter of 2018, in comparison with the 1st quarter of 2017. This large growth has meant we are currently advertising for hired help, and looking to further develop our wholesale business.”

The story of Bramble Hill raises a second key concern of ours – the complete lack of season extension incentives included in NSDA’s programs. Given our short growing season and increasingly unpredictable weather, access to funding for season extension is an essential component of growing our provincial agriculture industry, increasing market share and replacing imports with Nova Scotia grown.

Minister Colwell, we are ready to participate in a conversation with you and with NSDA’s experienced senior Programs staff.

Sincerely, Keltie Butler

Executive Director
Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia Cooperative
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