Behind the Lines - March 2010

It is a tale of courage and hardship. Mary Baxter’s cover story this month on mental illness probably has more relevance to more of your families, friends and neighbours, than almost any feature we’ve ever worked on.

Few in farm country will discuss this topic publicly. So sensitive is the subject matter, that after we interviewed one person who had previously agreed to share their story, we were threatened with legal action.

This fear of exposure makes sense when you consider how those with mental illness are viewed in many rural communities. That’s why we salute Tom Greensides for his courageous attitude in the face of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Those of you who have known Tom as chair of the Grape Growers of Ontario, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and one of the pioneers of the Agricultural Adaptation Council won’t be surprised by the leadership he’s demonstrating these days but you may be surprised by the magnitude of his battle.

And if you think Tom’s situation doesn’t affect you or your loved ones, consider that one person in five in Ontario will suffer a serious mental illness or addiction.

As our story came together we learned of the frustration many of you feel at the lack of mental health resources and of the problems with some of the existing avenues for help available in rural communities. Here’s an invitation: if you have a story to tell or ideas for improving mental health services in rural areas, send a letter to the editor or simply drop us an e-mail with information we can use in a future story.

Another issue affecting many Ontario farm families is back in the limelight. Some say a court decision by a justice of the peace in Newmarket last month on the legality of a raw milk co-op is a breakthrough for consumers. Others think supply management itself is threatened. Dairy Farmers of Ontario expects the decision will be struck down on appeal. Our article, beginning on page 40, looks at the implications for commodities other than dairy too.

Canada’s livestock industry has been hard hit by Country of Origin Labelling laws in the United States and the federal government has launched a trade action. In the meantime, amidst a  rising  tide of American pork imports, some producers want Canada to impose labels on incoming American pork products. We repeatedly sent some specific questions to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which oversees labelling on meat that is retailed. A week later, our calls had not been returned. That story starts on page 46. BF

Robert Irwin & Don Stoneman

Better Farming - March 2010