New Brunswick

Farmers face uphill search for successors — and most leave it too late

Finding someone to take over the family farm is becoming more difficult, says a representative of the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick.

Expecting sons or daughters to take over family farms is a thing of the past, says farmers union

Pavel Bourgeois is one of the few young farmers in New Brunswick who have taken over their families' farms. (Facebook)

Finding someone to take over the family farm operation is becoming more difficult, says a representative of the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick. 

With farmers reaching an average age of 56, many are looking for successors, whether in the farming community or beyond, Claire May said.

"Farms are larger now and there's fewer of them in the province now, so finding those successors to take over the farm has become a greater challenge." 

Claire May of the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick says only seven per cent of farmers in the province have a written succession plan. (CBC)

And the old model of family succession cannot be counted on.

"Kids taking over there parents farm is more of a thing of the past," May said. "The people looking for the successors are not sitting at the dinner table with them anymore." 

The subject was part of a union presentation Wednesday in the Westmorland County community of Shemogue, with the discussion centred on how the National Farmers Union could help farmers find successors. 

Few succession plans

Lyné Dijkman is looking for someone to take over her farm and is offering a co-op program to train young farmers. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

According to census numbers, only seven per cent of farmers in New Brunswick have written succession plans, May said. 

"So of our 2,255 farms, I think that's 158 farms that actually have a plan." 

Lyné Dijkman, who came to Canada from South Africa, is looking for someone to take over the farm she's owned for 10 years.

When her son decided not to help run Ruhe Farm in Shemogue, Dijkman had to look at other possibilities. 

"We are looking into forming a co-op, where we can actually train young farmers either to take the farm over or buy the farm."

Dijkman said she wants to use her expertise to help train people in a safe environment, where they can make mistakes and learn from them.

"It's important for me that our new generation knows where their food comes from, that they will eat healthy food that they've grown themselves." 

New life

Yuying Hu, who is new to the province, is considering farming as a way to make a living. (CBC)

Yuying Hu, who immigrated from China two months ago, is considering farming as a way to make a living. 

"I want to start a new life here, something different with my previous life in China," he said. "Farming is one of my options. So I'm happy to be here to learn more about farming and some story of the farmers here."

Hu said his grandfathers were farmers in China and while he worked as a quality control manager, farming is something he'd like to try.

Taking over

Bourgeois, 29, recently purchased the family apple orchard with two partners. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Pavel Bourgeois is one of the few who have decided to stay on and run the family farm. At 29, he and two other partners have bought the family orchard, the Fleur du Pommier, in Cocagne. 

"For me, I didn't see farming as such a big labour-intensive job that never quits cause our apples go to sleep in winter," Pavel said. "We still have apples to sell, but it gets a little bit more easy. You get somewhat of a life in winter." 

Bourgeois admitted it's a bit more work than he thought but expects it will get better as he continues.

The young farmer said he plans to put a succession plan in place. 

"When you're selling you have to make it so that the person who is buying is comfortable with the sale as well." 

With files from Tori Weldon

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