PEI

'We are connected very closely': Farmers concerned about impact of school closures in rural P.E.I.

The National Farmers Union is concerned about the impact proposed school closures could have on rural parts of the Island.

National Farmers Union says closures will have detrimental effect on rural communities

Douglas Campbell is district director of the NFU and a dairy farmer on P.E.I. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The National Farmers Union is concerned about the impact proposed school closures could have on rural parts of the Island.

Four of the five schools recommended for closures by the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch fall inside rural areas, and have galvanized their communities against the idea.

'Strong communities … strong family farms'

"If you don't have strong communities, if you don't have strong family farms, it has a trickling effect — from your hospitals, to your doctors, to your community schools." said Douglas Campbell, district director of the NFU and a dairy farmer in Southwest Lot 16, P.E.I.

"We are connected very closely that way and the way the land is used."

Douglas Campbell has worked on the farm his entire life, taking it over 25 years ago. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

He worries the potential closures will move more people to the cities — impacting small family farms in rural areas.

He added that agriculture is one of the "economic engines" of rural P.E.I., and it is natural that the farmers are concerned with the state of rural communities. 

'Not enough of a reason' for closures

For Campbell, the schools are an integral part of each community, and losing them would cause more harm than good.

"To say that they are only going to save a fraction of the cost to the education system is not enough of a reason to play with the social-economics here in our community, and the social welfare of our community structure."

Douglas Campbell's parents started dairy farming in the late 1950's, and he continues the family business. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The Public Schools Branch is wrapping up a third round of public meetings to hear public feedback on the recommended  closures.

Campbell said the NFU is somewhat hopeful government is listening to its voice and the many others speaking loudly these days.

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