Farmer Livelihoods

Farmers, harvesters, and fishers are key to making food systems more sustainable. Find out how FLEdGE collaborators are supporting those who grow and harvest our food.



What is (not) a family farm?

By Irena Knezevic, Kelly Bronson, and Chantal Clément

The 2011 Census counted over 200,000 farms in Canada, and of those some 150,000 are family farms.  By definition, a family farm is any farm that is not managed by a commune, cooperative, or a non-family corporation. The diversity of farms that fall under the family farm designation is staggering: from small plots to thousands of acres, from income under $10,000 to over $200,000, from single-product to mixed operations. In practice, the family farm designation excludes only a narrow range of operations, and leaves the definition open to the wonderfully varied mixture of family farms in Canada.

Yet beyond its official definition, what is a Canadian family farm of the 21st century? We looked for answers to this question by speaking to family farmers themselves. Through 36 interviews with self-identified family farmers across Canada, we found that famers themselves have a broad understanding of the term. However, we also uncovered that this ambiguity can work both for and against the furthering of small-scale, sustainable farming operations.

For many, the wider cultural currency associated with the term “family farm”—which is evocative of a bucolic, pastoral setting—is valuable, both for marketing purposes and for farmers’ own ideas about their work and the roles they occupy in their communities. For some, however, the idyllic image that so resonates with the general public doesn’t always reflect the reality of contemporary family farming. Whereas some farmers questioned if very large operations should still be considered family farms, others felt that regardless of the size, family ownership implies a set of community-minded values. As one farmer pointed out to us: “I don’t think it’s wrong to say that people who have a bigger budget or bigger resources [are family farmers]. . . my instant reaction is yeah, it’s owned by the family, it’s family farmed.” Continue reading “What is (not) a family farm?”

Exploring Community Stories About “Fish as Food”

Written by Kristen Lowitt

In May 2018, members of the FLEdGE Northwestern Ontario Research Node hosted a “fish as food” roundtable session at the Community Conservation and Livelihoods Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The session featured community stories on “fish as food” from the Northwest Territories to Nova Scotia. Collectively, the stories illustrate the importance of not seeing fisheries solely as an assortment of fish harvesters or fish stocks, but as part of larger food systems that provide for community sustenance, cultures, and economies. Co-organized by Kristen Lowitt and Charles Levkoe, the session builds on their ongoing FLEdGE research exploring the links between sustainable fisheries and food systems in the Lake Superior region of Northwestern Ontario. Continue reading “Exploring Community Stories About “Fish as Food””