BASTION MOUNTAIN RANCH - TALES OF A FARM FAMILY


My family lived on a Ranch full time from 1993 until 2015. We were a 5th generation family farm.
I am writing this blog to share my experiences living there. It is best to read the blog chronologically by going through the archives, starting with the introduction in January of 2010.
The blog starts with the arrival of my great-grandparents to the farm in 1947 and will follow the families to the present.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

THE OPEN GATE

The Open Gate

The Open Gate
The topic of the article, “How can the diminishing rural population continue to sustain urban B.C.?” has been clearly answered by the exodus from rural communities. Rural British Columbia is no longer in the position to sustain itself, and its days of supporting the urbanites are over. New immigrants are targeting Canada’s three largest cities rather than settling in the rural areas of our country. Our family has joined the ranks of those choosing to leave rural life. Recently we have put our 5th generation family farm up for sale. A historic farm rich in memories with years of family labour invested is no longer sustainable. Rural B.C. days of servitude to the urban population have come to an end; it is now up to urbanites to reciprocate the support they have received from the rural communities stretched over the province.
Many Canadians have a long history of strongly identifying with the rural environment as most of us have ancestors that made their first homes in the remote regions of this country. Our national identity is rooted in the wild open spaces of Canada, and it is the wilderness that draws visitors from all over the world. My great-grandparents left their well established families and incomes in Switzerland and came to Montreal in 1913. In their retirement years, they left the urban comforts of Montreal and moved to an isolated farm on the shores of Shuswap Lake, British Columbia. At that time, in 1948, the only access to their land was by boat from Sicamous, necessitating dangerous winter travel to sell their products and a long arduous trip to secure supplies and medical help. It was from this challenging piece of rocky land that they etched out a living. My husband and I tried to continue the farming heritage, which we inherited, and failed, never rising to the level of sustainable farming.
Our farm is not alone in the struggle to sustain a rural lifestyle. In B.C. “50% of farm sales average less than $10,000 annually and most farm operators rely on an off-farm income”(Smart Growth BC, para. 4). Our farm has always relied on off-farm income. My father did custom machine work and my husband and I worked as social workers. The pressure of maintaining a working farm as well as an “off farm” career can be crippling. Our family faced a myriad of issues that are common among family farms that led to our decision to put the farm up for sale; failed succession planning, shifting markets, lower profit and rising production costs and disease. Despite the hardships, B.C. farms still supply approximately “50 per cent of the province’s food requirement” (Smart Growth BC, para. 3).
Rural B.C. has been the main economic drive of the province as well as a source of food for the inhabitants since it was first populated. The province provided its people with abundant natural food stocks and later, agriculture provided for the nutritional needs of the ever-growing population. The Indigenous people maintained a thriving trade between themselves, which expanded to furs with the Europeans. Commercial fishing followed the fur trading, but it was mining which was responsible for most of the province’s growth . B.C. is dotted with mining towns, some which are now maintained by tourism alone, but others continue to extract the rich deposits from under the earth. Logging was  a strong economic driver but has suffered severely from the “boom and bust” nature of the resource industry, leaving many communities destitute. Most recently, mining is undergoing a similar fate with massive layoffs across the province.
People who live in urban areas often hold an idealized view of rural living created out of the current desire for organic produce, eating local, and the charm of a country market. Our idealization of the rural lifestyle is in direct contradiction to the health of the people living in these areas. Health and social problems are more abundant rurally than they are in an urban setting. Rural residents have a shorter life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates, higher unemployment, higher levels of high blood pressure and obesity, higher levels of arthritis/rheumatism and depression and lower levels of health promoting behaviors. The rates of suicide, accidents and disability are higher for the rural resident than their urban counterparts, and the level of education is lower for rural residents (A.M. Williams and J.C. Kulig 2). There is clearly much to be done to improve the health of our rural resident
The poor physical and emotional health of rural B.C. continues onto a weaker economic presence. Historically rural B.C. was the economic driver of the province but currently it is the service sector that the province’s economy relies on. Conversations for Responsible Economic Development-CRED BC, in their June 2014 report, state that B.C.’s economy has shifted from resource based to the service industry. The report suggests that “more than four-fifths of us work in services and over 76% of our GDP now comes from those sectors, while just 3% comes from oil, gas and support services” (McDowell para. 1). It is clear that there has been a shift with the urban centers now being the economic mainstay of the province. Increasingly rural communities are facing a bleak economic outlook resulting in a loss of the younger residents as they leave their home communities to look for work in larger centers. This migration increases the vulnerability of the rural community as the population becomes skewered towards a large number of older residents and the very young, resulting in fewer people working to support families.
Rural B.C. has become a difficult place to live, both in terms of maintaining a sustainable livelihood and also insuring that your family has access to adequate resources such as health care and education. The urban centers have the political power and have gained an economic and cultural vitality that rural B.C. cannot compete with. Rural B.C. needs to bring their concerns to the forefront of the political agenda and find those urbanites that are willing to assist to take action to bring resources to our ailing rural communities. Rural B.C. deserves to be saved. It has done more than its share to support the province and still retains an important economic resource base that, if lost, will negatively impact all of B.C. Urbanites need to lose the stereotypes such as ‘country living’ and ‘red-neck’ and understand the reality of living in today’s rural setting, and from that realistic viewpoint find the common ground to launch the support for everyone in this province despite where they choose to live. It is too late for our family as we lose our farm and move to an urban community, but with action others could be saved from abandoning their rural communities. It is time for urban to support rural.
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- See more at: http://shuswaplakeranch.com/the-open-gate/#sthash.Slj9vTyO.dpuf

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