March 23, 2004
For immediate release
Justin Rogers Revives Sixth Generation Family Farm
Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture & Forestry
After graduating from high school, Justin headed to the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, “So I could get a job and go back home and farm.” He is now an agrologist with Agri-Conservation Club West, a group of farmers in the western part of the province dedicated to fostering soil conservation practices and sustainable farming.
By the time he finished college, his grandfather had passed away and his uncle was working off-farm so he took over the operation. However, he said the transition can’t really be pinned down to a date. In fact, it started when he was 13 when he began building a cattle herd.
“In the fall of 2000, I bought some land and I put in my first crop of potatoes,” he said. “I wanted to stay totally focused on growing seed and building up a local seed market.” Since he was only growing 40 acres at the time, he knew he had to get the highest value back to make it work. Over the past three years, he has been kept busy trying to fix up buildings on the farm and updating equipment.
“I built a barn and fixed up the old potato warehouse that was built by our family back in the 1970s,” he said. “I am growing six different varieties and trying to build up markets but it has been slow. I also have about 60-70 head of cattle.”
Jason’s first stop in the morning is the barn to feed his herd and do the other barn chores. Then it is back home to have breakfast and time to go to work. While he does work out of home, the job does require him to do a considerable amount of traveling throughout Prince County, with some trips to Charlottetown thrown in as well.
“The beauty of the job is its flexibility,” Justin said. “I try to get my work done during the day but sometimes there is work to be done on evenings and weekends.”
After his “day” job is finished, there is more barn and repair work, “Before I go to bed and do the same thing all over again the next day.”
He said he usually takes some time off work during planting and harvesting. “I’m very lucky; without my neighbours and my family, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing,” he said.
Justin said he is never scared to ask more experienced farmers for advice. He adds, “There’s just so many things I like about farming — watching things grow, productivity, running my own business, the contact with other farmers and businesses.” He also likes the opportunity to be involved directly with the industry. He is a director of the Seed Growers Association, a member of the PEI Junior Farmers, a director of the PEI Soil and Crop Improvement Association, and a member of the organizing committee for the farm equipment show held in conjunction with the O’Leary Potato Blossom Festival.
Despite his upbeat nature, Justin admits he is very fearful of the road ahead for Island agriculture. The number of farmers in the province is on the decline, and the industry is now going through a major financial crisis.
“Farming is what makes Prince Edward Island the unique place it is,” he said. “It is very sad to see the rural economy eroding the way it is. I fear for myself and I fear for the industry as a whole.”
He said the industry can’t afford to lose anybody else adding, “The farmer doesn't need to get paid much to be satisfied and keep going. The money farmers send back out into the economy is spent several times.”
Justin said Island farmers are facing many issues that are out of their control including trade barriers, added input and freight costs and corporate control on the retail and processing side. He added, “We have a wonderful system here in Canada of high quality, safe food and hopefully we will be able to preserve it.”
(This article is one of a series prepared for the Prince Edward Island Agricultural Awareness Committee to profile life on 21st century Island farms.)