There are many variables that greatly impact the profitability of the family farm. Some of those variables include different risks and often largely depends on where your farm is located in the world.
Ask yourself this question — Do you like where you farm?
For the majority of farms in Canada and the U.S., you farm where you do because thats where your parents did, that’s where your grandparents and maybe even great-grandparents did. Realistically, you farm where you do because of a decision a relative made in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
Your ancestors may have chosen the location based on the land being free, the horses pulling the wagon got tired, or because there was a bustling town nearby that unfortunately is now a ghost town.
There are many first-generation Canadians that asked themselves this question and left other areas of the world to seek better opportunities in North America. What about you? Have you ever considered that there may be a better farming opportunity in another province, state, or even country?
If your answer is no because you like where you farm no matter the profit potential, regulatory environment, political climate, or trade distortion, do not feel bad — you are likely not alone among other farmers or the mainstream population
In a recent Globe and Mail article by David Parkinson on the lack of labour mobility he writes:
A 2017 study by StatsCan found that 68 per cent of unemployed Canadians said they would not move to another province for a job offer. The numbers didn’t change much regardless of education level. And people who were unemployed for more than 16 weeks were just as reluctant to relocate.
For most, economic and financial concerns had little to do with it. Nearly half of those who said they wouldn’t move cited staying close to family and friends as their primary concern.
Another 20 per cent said their spouse or children wouldn’t want to move. (Indeed, spousal concerns may be a key element in the decline in mobility over the past few decades, as the rise of dual-income households has moved the needle in relocation decisions.)
Some of the more commonly cited economic barriers to labour mobility appear to be non-factors. Only 1.2 per cent of the people surveyed said housing costs would keep them from changing provinces. Less than 1 per cent cited problems having their professional credentials recognized in another province.
People are clearly creatures of comfort when it comes to justifying where they work and probably where they farm as well. Although you could farm elsewhere, the emotion of the homestead is difficult to override. Many farmers view their farm and family as a creation of a legacy to be enjoyed for generations to come.
I am aware of a couple examples where farmers bucked the trend and moved their operation to another province, the U.S. or South America, but those examples are rare.
Is there any carrot or stick that would motivate you to pack up and relocate your farm? Would it take certain political or economic policies to force your decision?
I am really interested in your feedback and thoughts on this consideration. Does your family farm legacy over ride a larger financial opportunity for your farming operation in another geography? Give it some thought, and then zip me an email at [email protected] telling me what would be enough (or too much) to make you pull up stakes and move on.