A recent tragedy in our community reminded me that we are losing much more than money when farm families leave the land as government and industry work together to steal the value of their efforts.

However, let’s look at that value for a moment.  An average elevator delivery point in central Alberta would usually ship enough barley to make 170 million or so bottles of beer, not to mention wheat, canola, and oats.  Across the prairies every fifteen or twenty miles on a network of rail lines would be another delivery point with the same volume.  All of that grain was grown by farm families and almost all of it was delivered to elevators they owned cooperatively.

The character of a people is shaped by their circumstances, but how they respond to those circumstances is shaped by their culture.  In spite of the nonsense spewed out endlessly by the corporate media, the culture of western Canada is based on cooperation and working together.  There is little doubt part of the reason the cooperative elevators were destroyed so quickly was to remove those powerful symbols of economic cooperation which once covered western Canada.

A few days ago a young woman who grew up not far my own farm died tragically, through no fault of her own, leaving behind a young son, grieving husband, and family.  She and her husband had made a life for themselves in a small city 100 or so miles from her parents’ farm.  Her dad told me how surprised he was that her last wish was that her ashes be spread on the family farm.

However, I was not at all surprised.  That final wish carefully thought out by this young mother, said volumes about the quality of farm families.  The love she still felt for her farm home and parents is obvious, as is the obviously superb job of nurturing her parents did for their daughter.

It also speaks volumes about how farmers see their land.  I have no doubt there will be a special spot on that farm where her ashes are spread and no doubt some special plantings will take place.  For some, farm land is just another commodity, but for most farm families it is much more than that.  Perhaps someday that young man will come to own the farm and a commemoration to a mother he hardly knew.

At the moment farm families are under direct attack by the Harper Conservatives and their handlers in big business, but I’m willing to bet that like the farmers who spent hours planting shelterbelts for generations they knew they would never see, that young man will step into a farm community that is still based on cooperation while the Harper Conservatives will be a despised footnote to western history.

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