________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 21 . . . . June 22, 2001

cover Farm Futures.

Clancy Dennehy (Director).
Vancouver, BC: Clancy Dennehy ( email clancyden@telus.net), 2000.
44 min., DVD, $80.00.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4

Not since the 1930's have Canadian farmers and the farm economy been under such extreme pressure: currency fluctuations, price volatility, the rise of multi-national agriculture cartels, environmental peril, and technological change are challenges faced by today's producer. It takes courage, considerable business savvy, incredible optimism, and sometimes, the luck of a really successful gambler, in order to remain in farming and to manage a living from it. Farm Futures is the story of four Manitoba farm families, their heritage, their present, and their speculations about the futures of their multi-generational farms.

      Each of the four families profiled has faced considerable personal stresses: illness, family difficulties, and the inevitable "bad years" in which months of hard work are wiped out by storm, drought, infestations, or insects. And, in each of the four families profiled, the members of the current generation of producers have combined their knowledge of agriculture with an entrepreneurial spirit in order to find new sources of income. Patrick Horosko does custom-spraying and raises bees; Mike Taylor left his work as an engineer to work on his parents' elk and bison ranch, the first of its kind in Manitoba; Michael Lamb helps his widowed mother to continue to run the family farm, doing custom baling to earn additional income; and Paul Orsak has expanded into the grain elevator business in order to be more profitable.

      All of the families talked candidly about the stresses of farming and of how they manage the dynamics of an inter-generational business. What emerges, however, is incredible respect for the hard work of the previous generation and admiration for the current generation's ability to adapt to the changes in agri-business. As for the future of the farm, all four of the current generation - Patrick Horosko, Mike Taylor, Michael Lamb, and Paul Orsak - express concern about whether or not farm business is the future for their sons and daughters. At the same time, each expresses an undeniable satisfaction with the life he has chosen, despite its hardships, and hopes that somehow, the farm will remain in the family.

      Farm Futures provides an excellent perspective on the difficulties faced by this generation of Canadian farmers. City-dwellers shopping in grocery stores forget about where all that food comes from, and when we complain about its cost, we rarely think of the scale of price increases faced by farmers paying for fuel, leasing machinery, and dealing with government marketing agencies. We forget that farming is a business, with inevitable booms and busts, and more than its share of uncontrollable uncertainties.

      All of the farmers profiled in the video work in various regions of Manitoba, and the Prairie focus is one of the limits of the film. Teachers and students outside the Prairie region might find that the farms presented are quite different from those in their province. While the video includes many sequences of work on the farm, it is not a documentary describing how farming is undertaken; rather, the focus is on the people and their experience. Nevertheless, Farm Futures provides a realistic contemporary portrait of Prairie agriculture. A useful supplementary resource for high school students of Canadian geography, and worth acquiring for a school library resource collection.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364