Getting to know you

When courting, it helps to learn everything you can about a pending partner.

The “Agriculture 101” tour, in many respects, is just like that, and offers an opportunity for people to know their partners in government a little better. The dynamics of rural life have seen unparalleled changes over the last century. Once, MPPs were within a generation or two of farm life. Even if someone hailed from the city, chances were good that a relative or two would have the family out to the farm at one point or another. Perhaps a summer vacation for the kids on grandpa’s farm, or a holiday occasion would bring rural and urban together. Simply put, there were points of understanding in those get-togethers.

That has changed to the point where many, including even rural MPPs, have little affinity with the farm. Most will know something of cows, but few will have milked one, farrowed pigs, assisted during lambing or plucked eggs out from under the nastiest of old hens. Others yet will have missed out on baling hay on a hot summer day or having felt the itchy sensation of dust as a grain auger emptied its load.

No, today meats, cheeses and dairy products come from the store – as if magically manufactured in the back rooms of fancy grocery stores. The missing link between the farmer’s field and the consumer’s fridge has become much greater in recent times.

Local farmers have been fighting back, trying to win the hearts and minds of consumers. Initiatives like farmer’s markets and partnerships with top billed restaurants have helped – at the very least buying locally and knowing where the produce comes from has helped people make a connection to the producer.

We have noted an increasing hesitation by shoppers in the stores when it comes to country of origin. Buying closer to home helps the economy and can provide a measure of assurance about food safety.

We view MPP John Wilkinson’s agricultural tour as a very wise use of time and his efforts with others to educate politicians unfamiliar with that way of life.

Further to that, we applaud the notion of a “Toronto 101,” where rural politicians and farmers travel to cities for a taste of that lifestyle. It would do us all well to have a better understanding of problems found there.

There is no doubt that the lifestyles are very different and the issues of the day are often dissimilar. Our reporter started his article recalling the old fable about the country mouse and city mouse. How fitting.

In the final analysis, politicians are far better prepared to work for us after gaining an understanding of the electorate and how rules affect the two diverse communities in different ways.

There should now be a better understanding and respect for where people are coming from on issues. It can only help.