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March 17, 2006

Farming Life: Go West Young Man - Jorocs recalls his trip to the 2005 World Dairy Summit

Posted by Jorocs

Jorocs recalls his trip to the 2005 World Dairy Summit in Vancouver.

During the agricultural depression of the 1920s and 30s, a saying developed which was "Go West Young Man". This was indicating to young men, that there were still opportunities farming in Canada and the USA. In recent years I have been advising young men who want a successful career in farming to go East, i.e. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

There is a demand today for young men with agricultural knowledge and expertise to go to the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Some of these countries are expanding their agricultural production very successfully, in financial terms, because they are unharassed by the strict enforcement of animal welfare regulations and petty bureaucracy. Land and premises are available at minimum rates.

Because I have been advising young men to go East, when I found myself in Canada for the 2005 World Dairy Summit (17th - 22nd September 2005), I was able to assess if there are any opportunities remaining in the West. The answer is a resounding yes.

Not being a seasoned traveller and concerned about jet lag, I consulted a friend who regularly travelled abroad. He offered me 4 tablets guaranteed to put me asleep on the plane. On discussing these prescription only tablets with a friend in the prison service, he consulted the narcotics department who warned I'd probably be asleep for three days if I managed to get past the sniffer dogs.

Before leaving at Heathrow, I tried to acquire a magazine to read on the outward journey. After vainly viewing shelf after shelf of naked female flesh, I found myself whispering conspiratorially to the shop assistant:

You haven't got a copy of The Horse and Hound have you?
When you first arrive at Vancouver Airport, you travel along walkways, surrounded by artificial rivers, waterfalls and bird song, far more impressive than the drab Heathrow. In Canada you are immediately struck by the sheer size of everything, the buildings and the open spaces are enormous, as are the people; they also wear enormous clothes, three sizes too big, in the style of rebellious teenagers. Their size may be attributed to the enormous amount of food they eat, including the hormone-implanted beef. There is little or no graffiti, but because steel is dear and timber is cheap, it is a land of contrasts. You see a magnificent collection of high-rise buildings, of great variation and stunning architectural merit, supplied by a forest of decrepit wooden electricity poles.

The people are some of the nicest on earth. The service industry is second to none, but this might have something to do with the optional/obligatory 15% tipping. There are many modern water features amongst the buildings, no speed cameras, and no obvious policemen. Because they are an emerging nation - with only two hundred years of history not two thousand - they keep everything simple. The insurance sticker is displayed on the number plate - so no illegally driven motorcars here. Many of the taxis are the new hybrid electricity cars, very impressive, particularly the computer screen on the dashboard showing whether the engine was driving the car, or the electric motors was driving the car or the car braking was charging the battery.

From the faces and names of the people, it is instantly obvious they are a multicultural society. As a friend puts it to me:

We are a country, not a nation.
He arrived five years ago, with two suitcases a wife and some addresses. He now runs a very successful business, has his own house and freely admits it would have taken him up to twenty years to achieve this in the UK. Most important to him, he has just been granted Canadian citizenship, not easy to achieve, but of which he is more proud than being British.

At the 2005 World Dairy Conference in Vancouver it became obvious that all farmers worldwide are experiencing the problem of falling milk prices, the exception being Canada who run a quota system geared to consumption levels unlike the British system which seems to be geared to over-production.

It was very pleasing to see the American initiative of "3 a Day Burn More Fat". This successful ongoing campaign has been based on American research showing that consumption of three dairy products a day helps weight control.

A visit to a typical Canadian family farm showed it was not dissimilar to those in Britain except the cows are housed all year round and the guaranteed high milk price allows for heavy borrowing and heavy investment in new machinery and buildings. Many of the farmers were first generation EU immigrants.

Also a part of the conference was an evening spent at the Capilano Bridge. This was a highly stressful event in that I felt duty-bound to cross the swaying suspended foot bridge - three quarters of a mile long, and seeming to me three quarters of a mile high - with an outward appearance of calm, for the sake of a panicking wife, while inwardly facing my worst demons. We managed to cross while it swayed like a wagging dog's tail only to realise that we had to cross back, but the food and hospitality provided by the Canadian Government were second to none.

Our visit concluded with the must see trip and meal at the revolving restaurant, overlooking and high above the illuminated night life of Vancouver.

Jorocs writes about farming and hunting life for the Social Affairs Unit. To read more by Jorocs, see Hunting.

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"Three-quarters of a mile high"? Now that's a bridge!

Posted by: Robert Speirs at March 21, 2006 06:22 PM
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