I woke up early this morning in Ottawa to head to the Queen Street CBC studio for an interview with Kathleen Petty on Ottawa Morning. I asked the cab driver how business was and he replied it was horrible. Driving a taxi, he said, is a terrible job. “My father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, they were farmers.” He was a farmer too, until he came to this country.
He almost pulled over the car when I told him that I’d just written a book, in part, about farming in Canada. He then told me about his 400 acre farm in Lebanon where they grew all sorts of vegetables and where he had a staff of more than 100 people. He tried to farm when he immigrated to Canada 14 years ago, but they lost their crop in an early frost and gave up. He needed to find another job to support his family. Though he still dreams of owning a greenhouse.
Imagine the talent we are losing out on when our farmers become taxi drivers–or any other job that takes them away from the growing of food! The knowledge of at least four generations of farmers is lost in this one man’s case.
I scribbled down the names of two organizations that might be able to help him start farming in Canada–Just Food in Ottawa that advocates for more farming in the area, among other things, and the Guelph-based FarmStart where they help to train immigrants with agricultural backgrounds. His face was beaming as I left the cab. I think he was thinking that maybe, just maybe, he might be able to own a greenhouse one day.