N.B. National Farmers Union leader wants to help farms grow so they can feed province
'I know that New Brunswick can feed New Brunswick,' farmer Eva Rehak says
The new president of the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick says she wants to help family farms grow as they struggle through a labour shortage, pandemic and other challenges.
"I enjoy farming and I want to see it prosper," Eva Rehak said Monday of her goal to help others succeed. "It's getting the help and prosperity to continue growing.
"I know that New Brunswick can feed New Brunswick."
Rehak, who co-owns and operates Alva Farm with her partner, Alain Rousselle, and their children in Saint-Maurice, near Bouctouche, has been on the union's board for 10 years and served as the women's president and on the national board.
She didn't grow up on a farm, but she studied agricultural technology and gained experience with community-shared agriculture programs before buying the farm in New Brunswick.
Rehak said her farm produces 45 different vegetables, some fruits and herbs both outside and in a greenhouse.
Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was worrying for many farmers, but Rehak said many, including her farm, saw a higher demand for fresh produce.
"I think it made us realize that we need to support our farmers and to basically nourish the New Brunswick people."
Labour issues need resolution
A labour shortage needs to be resolved, she said, although it's not a job that many want to do and the pay isn't great.
"Farming is a very hard job, if I can put it in that sense. It's, like, labour-intensive, so it's not very attractive to a lot of people when we have to pay kind of the minimum wage."
Any wage subsidy would help offset labour costs, she said.
Rehak said she'd also like to see programs such as the fruit and vegetable industry development program continue for a few years to encourage farmers to grow things normally brought in from other parts of Canada or from outside it.
She used her own farm as an example.
"We don't do pineapples and citrus fruits and things like that. We don't have the climate for it. But we can do sweet potatoes. We can do a bunch of Asian foods, vegetables, the broccoli, tomatoes, the classics."
She said the program helped the farm build another greenhouse, so it could start growing food earlier in the year and later.
Rehak added the program has helped many new farms start up.
"So with small-scale or diverse farms, if we can help those, then we could be self-sufficient with food sovereignty here in New Brunswick."
With files from Information Morning Moncton