A Letter from a Haliburton County Farmer to Hon. Lisa Thompson, Minister of OMAFRA

February 23, 2024 | Jean Schlicklin Tyler, Haliburton farmer and CFFO member

A Letter from a Haliburton County Farmer to Hon. Lisa Thompson, Minister of OMAFRA

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario encourages our members to contact various levels of local government and voice the issues that are directly effecting their farms and livelihood. This week for our commentary post, we have included a letter sent by CFFO member and Haliburton County Farmer, Jean Schlicklin Tyler to the Honourable Lisa Thompson, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs. 

She urgently requests open communication and immediate action regarding the dire shortage of large animal veterinarians in the area. Despite Haliburton not being a major food producer in Ontario, the county serves as an indicator of broader industry issues. With nearly 100 families in urgent need of veterinary services, the community faces significant challenges in maintaining livestock health and sustainable agriculture practices. Jean Schlicklin Tyler, drawing on 30 years of experience as a community organizer, highlights the heartbreaking stories of farmers forced to travel long distances for veterinary care or even sell their animals due to lack of access. The letter emphasizes the need for innovative solutions and collaboration to address the crisis, citing the importance of grassroots involvement and faith-based approaches to community development. Jean Schlicklin Tyler urges the Minister to take decisive action to support farmers and safeguard the future of agriculture in the region.

Greetings Honourable Thompson, Minister of OMAFRA,

This letter is a reflection from a Haliburton County Farmer. The request is to open communications with people on the ground so that we see action now, plans for 2 years and in 7 years for solutions. We recognize Haliburton is not a major food producer of Ontario, however we are a canary in the industry. We have just under 100 families in the county in dire need of a large animal veterinarian. We live on the land that represent millions of capital dollars of land holding and a significant financial impact on this community with small market and homesteading production for family and friends.

As a volunteer in the farm community for 30 years and married to Godfrey Tyler living on a fifth generation farm since 1912, we have communicated with you before about the vet crisis and maple syrup expansion policy issues. We are aware of the lack of vets in several other communities around Ontario, as well as the shrinking number of abattoirs and the lack of plans for future farmers in this environment. We know there are only a few trained large animal vets from the educational institutions. There are solutions by looking out side the box to alternative economics if we could work directly in positive health of the animals and the people on the land.

My life experiences as a community organizer across North America gives me insights that shocked even me when I made over 86 calls to our membership over two day Jan 15 and 16 in preparation for the AGM. Our executive sent out social media, hard copy letters and email in advance of our AGM Jan 18 to the members and beyond. The information gathered during those two days of calls were heart wrenching. I listened to stories of people who had to move to NB for a veterinarian. At least two others sadly sold their large animals with no option for a large animal care. A group of other stories were how some were doing clinics to learn from each other how to respond to the health needs of their animals. At high costs to each farmer, there are several different vets that travel long distances to care for the minimal service of care, but no emergency care for our animals. Others are working to communicate with a vet from a distance for consultation without a technician on the farm. Some are angry at the Vets that tried to service our area and others are angry, isolated and sad knowing that we are not alone, yet have no service available. Some are young with the knowledge of social media, but not with an understanding of communication in the larger crisis at hand without the long term resources for the solutions in sight. The agricultural community is in a crisis.

Connecting directly with farmers has brought home just how isolated the agricultural community has become. Our local food supply has become dependent on these individuals and their skills. The article in Jan/Feb 2024 page 34 to 37 of the magazine “Faith Today” that we receive because of our CFFO membership has a very timely reflection on how to work with communities using the ABCD methods. As a farmer with faith on the land, I ask you to be open to new actions that will bring about results for this crisis in Agriculture. We have the heart for the care of our animals and land. We have the desire to create a living on the land with healthy processing. We have hope to share this with the next generations into the future to care for the land and the people. Let solutions come forth from the people of the land.

Peace, Jean Schlicklin Tyler, Haliburton farmer

The letter was also copied to the following contacts to garner broader support and attention to the issue. 
Laurie Scott - MPP Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Ed Scharringa - President of CFFO
Murray Workman - President of HCFA
Jordan Miller - Northern Director of Beef Farmers of Ontario

The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy.