There was not a lot of farm machinery out in fields this week, but this producer was working just south of Red Deer. Farmers are looking for some heat and wind to mature and dry out crops and allow harvesting to get going in force. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

There was not a lot of farm machinery out in fields this week, but this producer was working just south of Red Deer. Farmers are looking for some heat and wind to mature and dry out crops and allow harvesting to get going in force. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

Alberta’s prosperity not all about the oil: Red Deer County mayor

Mayor Jim Wood says there is a lot of opportunity to grow Alberta’s Number 2 industry

While the oilpatch is Alberta’s trademark, a big part of the province’s future prosperity lies on its family farms, says Red Deer County’s mayor.

“Agriculture has one of the best and brightest futures we have,” said Jim Wood, who farms and raises cattle near Delburne.

Low oil and natural gas prices, combined with market access challenges, have taken a lot of steam out of Alberta’s money-maker industry over the past few years.

But agriculture is the No. 2 industry and Wood sees plenty of room for growth with the right encouragement.

“I think one of the key things we want to make sure we keep successful is the family farm,” said Wood on Tuesday.

Many communities revolve around the nearby family farms, and it is important that there is a smooth transition from today’s producers to a new generation of farmers, he said.

Part of that involves ensuring financing is available for those taking over farms and that the transfer of property to the next generation is not hampered by tax policies.

Wood would like to see more investment in the industry to allow a bigger share of farmers’ production to be processed and turned into value-added goods.

“It’s sad that we send a lot of our products away to foreign countries to be further processed. It would make more sense to process those products here.

“Especially at a time when shipping is so expensive, I think that is one way we could really help.”

Canola is one example. While there are canola crushers in Camrose and Fort Saskatchewan, among other places, much of it is exported elsewhere to be processed.

“Why are we shipping raw canola to China, when it all could stay here?” he said.

Another benefit of keeping production closer to farmers is it reduces the financial impact of trade disputes because there is always a market for finished products.

Processing at home also saves on transportation costs and creates jobs, he said.

“There’s no reason we can’t have more manufacturing in this province, especially manufacturing of agricultural goods.”

A lot of the equipment used today was dreamed up by farmers tinkering in their shops during the winter months, looking to build the better mouse trap, said Wood.

That’s one of the reasons the county has a place for home-based businesses in its land use regulations, he said. What starts out in a garage could one day grow into a shop and a steady employer.

Many farmers would also benefit from having better access to agricultural expertise, he said.

There was a time when farming communities could count on local agriculturists based out of district offices for advice. Over the decades, those largely disappeared, and a farmer’s only contact with a crop specialist or other expert is often by phone.

“We’ve lost a lot of help that we once had, as far as knowledge goes.

“Farming is a business that has very low (profit) margins. And sometimes, you just need that little bit of expertise.”



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Red Deer says its roundabouts have sharply reduced the number of injury collisions at a pair of busy intersections. Alberta Transportation wants to incorporate five roundabouts into plans to twin Highway 11 from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Highway 11 roundabouts will increase safety based on Red Deer’s experience

Injury collisions sharply reduced at roundabout intersections in city

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

Alberta reported an additional 643 COVID-19 cases Friday. The province now has… Continue reading

About 110 students from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools participated in March for Life rally in Edmonton May 9. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school has COVID-19 case

St. Joseph High School in Red Deer confirmed a positive COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Lacombe High School logo.
Two more COVID-19 cases at Lacombe Composite High School

Lacombe Composite High School confirmed two more positive COVID-19 cases at the… Continue reading

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

There are two confirmed COVID-19 cases at Red Deer College. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Central Albertans were promised a university

Central Albertans were promised a university

Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) passes the ball around Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Powell, Raptors regroup after blowing lead, beat Heat 101-81

Powell, Raptors regroup after blowing lead, beat Heat 101-81

Tavares scores winner on power play, Leafs beat Oilers 4-2

Tavares scores winner on power play, Leafs beat Oilers 4-2

David Shoemaker, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, speaks during the Olympic Partnership kick off event at the Sobey's office in Mississauga, Ont. on Monday, October 7, 2019. Shoemaker says the IOC remains committed to staging the Summer Games in Tokyo this summer.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Canada’s Olympic athletes try to tune out reports six months from Games

Canada’s Olympic athletes try to tune out reports six months from Games

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley lifts the Voyageurs Cup after beating Vancouver Whitecaps 5-2 to win the Canadian Championship Final in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Forge FC-Toronto FC Canadian Championship final to be played before April 6

Forge FC-Toronto FC Canadian Championship final to be played before April 6

Canada's Penny Oleksiak reacts after her heat of the women's 50m butterfly at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Friday, July 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lee Jin-man
Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse among six swimmers named early to Canadian Olympic team

Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse among six swimmers named early to Canadian Olympic team

Ontario skip Glenn Howard watches a rock as they play Newfoundland and Labrador in draw 15 action at the Tim Hortons Brier curling championship at Mile One Centre in St. John's on Thursday, March 9, 2017. Curling Canada has decided to use the national ranking system as its selection criteria for the final wild-card berths at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian rankings to be used to determine final wild-card spots at Scotties and Brier

Canadian rankings to be used to determine final wild-card spots at Scotties and Brier

A digital Intensive care unit room at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are down slightly in Ontario and Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Justin Trudeau mulls mandatory hotel quarantine for returning travellers

Justin Trudeau mulls mandatory hotel quarantine for returning travellers

Most Read