Farmers: True Creators of Value

by John DePutter, April 9th, 2013
There are many reasons I love being involved with agriculture and food. Among them, the fact that agriculture is a core industry – one that keeps evolving, keeps innovating, and will continue to be a foundation for our country and the people of this world who need to eat.

Put simply, agriculture is a true contributor to the health and well-being of our society and the wealth of our country. Or put even more simply, it is a value creator.

Much of the wealth of any nation originally comes from the ground and/or water surrounding it, with the addition of the energy of its people. You start with a seed, for example, and grow a crop that produces food or fibre or fuel or all three. Or you start with a cow and produce meat or dairy products. That’s real value creation.

Any industry that involves starting with a raw material and then refining it and developing it into a product or service that improves peoples’ lives in some way has true intrinsic value. But I think agriculture is number one in this regard.

There’s a lot of talk these days about why this or that industry should be supported by government or whether certain developments should be undertaken by governments in order to create jobs. One big debate going on in Toronto and surrounding area these days is whether the city government should support a major casino development. But while casinos may provide some jobs – many of them at the service level – casinos are part of a zero-sum game. Money goes in and money comes out and no new real value is added. Some would legitimately argue there are also attendant negative societal problems that make these projects a net loss to communities. Regardless, this is just one example of an industry based on re-distribution of wealth rather than value generation.  And in this way, agriculture has a lot of other industries beat.

Amid today’s chaos of economic activity, amid the economic and social conditions we live in, agriculture and food business really is the foundation of our well-being. I would venture to say it stands at the base of many an economically and socially healthy nation. It is the source of much wealth, however you may define wealth.

At a time that holds a lot of uncertainty – both in agriculture and outside of it – agriculture also offers a way of life and a sense of purpose for the people in it. Unlike a lot of other businesses, agriculture is fuelled by people who believe in what they do, and know that they have more than just a job.

Currently there is a lot of discussion about today’s young workers and the lack of jobs to match their education and qualifications. Meanwhile, we hear a lot about the future of farming – will young people continue to get involved in agriculture or are they moving away from farm life?

Too often there is a fad or trend whereby people are encouraged to jump into a career path that seems to be the latest in thing. The educational system is re-tooled to accommodate for it. Then, a few years later it is saturated with people into a job market that can no longer accommodate them all. Agriculture is an industry that will always provide jobs within in the industry and support economic growth that creates jobs in other sectors.

In effect, it creates value. Value for anyone who eats food, who benefits from a farmers’ hard work – and value for the farmers who know this is a great business to be in.