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Support Group Eyes Farm Aid North

Farmers may be singing the blues over uncertain prices and high costs but Farm Tribute Canada hopes to strike a different chord this summer.

The farm support group plans to hold a Canadian version of the U. S.’s famous annual Farm Aid benefit concert, to be held at Downsview Park in the north end of Toronto this summer, said Cathy Leal, executive director of Farm Tribute Canada.

The group, formed in the aftermath of the BSE crisis, wants to make urban Canadians aware of the financially perilous state of many Canadian family farms, she told the annual meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

“We want to put a human face on agriculture, raise public awareness of the plight of today’s farmers and encourage people to buy local food products as much as they can.”

The group hopes to have caravans motoring across the country this summer to drum up attention to the situation in agriculture. They would arrive at Downsview Park in time for the Aug. 29-30 concert. The group is still working on the lineup of artists who will appear. “We want to turn it into the largest outdoor farmers’ market,” she said.

However farmers can’t be content just to enjoy the music, she said. “We need you to so speak out in support of us, tell Canadians your story.” There’s a sign-up form at www.farmtributecanada.ca.

“URBAN-RURAL CONNECTIONS”

Farm Tribute said it also wants to create year-round programs to support farmers, encourage youth to considering farming as a profession, and educate Canadians about farming and healthy eating.

Katherine Schmidt of Food Banks Canada said supplying food to hungry Canadians is a full-time concern across Canada – including rural areas, home to over 12 per cent of food bank users.

Farm groups across the country are big supporters of food banks. Manitoba egg producers and Ontario dairy farmers are major donors. A lot of the pork from a cull hog program last year went to food banks. “It shows the importance of having strong urban-rural connections,” Schmidt said.

The U. S. Farm Aid concerts annually feature performers such as Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews. The last such major Canadian concert was the Family Farm Tribute, held in Toronto in 2000 with performers including Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Wide Mouth Mason and Big Sugar.

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