I know little about farming, but I can see that it is a complex and demanding way of life. It requires skills and knowledge about machinery, soil, livestock, labour, accounting, government requirements and restrictions… It is a huge undertaking for one family. And many of Canada’s farmers are retiring, with big challenges for those interested in taking over or starting out.
There is another approach which could benefit Canada in multiple ways – an adaptation of the Israeli “kibbutz.” Forty-five years ago, we lived in a such a community: established in 1937, left-leaning, and largely secular. There are permanent members, their children, and – from all over the world volunteers and those enrolled in work-study programs.
As these communities grow, members develop more specialized knowledge and skills in the different areas, and leadership/management is organized on a rotating basis. Meals are available at a dining hall, somewhat like a summer camp, though members where we stayed had tiny houses with their own kitchen facilities. The “campus” also had a theatre, a swimming pool, a ceramics studio, and other amenities.
The volunteer and work-study programs provide visitors and new immigrants with a safe place to stay, to work, and to learn the language and customs. The movement has also helped to feed the country, to develop marginal lands (for example, “greening the desert”), and has produced new developments in agriculture. Part of the attraction too is freedom from many “normal” obligations: shopping, cooking and laundry, for example.
A Canadian version of the kibbutz, and especially a network of them across the country, would require some bold vision and government support, but it is an idea worth exploring.