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Youth want to stay on farm

The project will look at how new farmers make it work as they enter the business

New research aims to debunk the idea that young people want to leave the family farm and move to the city.

Annette Desmarais of the University of Manitoba is one of nine researchers involved in the study, which will look at barriers young farmers face in multiple countries, including Canada, India, China and Indonesia. Titled, Becoming a young farmer: young people’s pathways into farming in five countries, it will take five years to complete.

“The reason that we decided to do this research is that there is this really strong message out there at a global level and at many international development institutions… that people don’t want to continue to farm, that the youth who have lived in rural areas and who come from rural areas are actually completely intent on moving out and moving into cities,” said the Canada Research Council Chair. “But what we have found, however, in the research that we’ve all been doing already, is that individually that wasn’t the case.”

She added that many governments and government organizations also make the argument that young people leave farming for an urban life because they don’t want to farm, but Desmarais said she believes many youth who leave the farm do so because they feel the barriers to farming are too high.

“Young people actually do want to farm and many of them are farming and many new people are getting into farming as well,” she said, adding the research will also examine what enables young people to successfully enter the field, especially if they don’t come from a farming background.

“What we wanted to do was understand that better,” Desmarais said. “How is it that people who have never farmed have made their way into farming and for those who come from farming families, how is it that they were able to stay, what kind of arrangements were made within the family or the extended family, how did they get access to land? What were some of the major factors that helped them set themselves up as farmers?”

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, Desmarais will speak with 50 participants in Manitoba between now and the end of July. This fall, Sharada Srinivasan at the University of Guelph and Agha Akram-Lodhi at Trent University will follow suit, interviewing new and aspiring farmers in Ontario.

A conscious effort has also been made to include both men and women in the study, as well as those who might be working in farming, but don’t yet have an operation of their own.

About the author


Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.


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