"It's a win-win situation."

From the...

Beef farmers help raise $108,000 for food bank

Meagan Fitzpatrick

The Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, May 28, 2005

There were no beefs yesterday as the Ottawa Food Bank and cattle producers got together to raise $108,000 in a one-day Food Aid event at the Canada Agriculture Museum.

Media, service clubs, agricultural organizations, the City of Ottawa and corporate partners supported the day-long event. Despite the rain, participants enjoyed a barbecue, live auction, entertainment, games and wagon rides.

"It's a win-win situation," said Wyatt McWilliams, the farmer who came up with the fundraising idea and approached the food bank with it. "I have a saying: if you ate today, thank a farmer. Well, 37,000 people (who use the food bank) in Ottawa have a saying: thank the food bank."

Money raised will allow the food bank to purchase local beef and boost the domestic market for their products.

Mr. McWilliams and Peter Tilley, the food bank's executive director, say the partnership makes perfect sense and should be implemented across the country. Since the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis hit Canada two years ago and the United States closed the border to Canadian cattle, the surplus of cattle has climbed and the market has shrunk. If food banks added beef to the products they offer, it would help ease that burden, said Mr. McWilliams.

The event was also intended to raise awareness about rural life and help bridge the gap between Ottawa's city and country populations.

"We're two per cent of the population as farmers, but we feed 100 per cent of the population," said Mr. McWilliams. "Consumers, or anyone that eats every day, has to support the farm industry, especially the family farms."

Several farmers said there is a definite divide between the city's rural and urban areas and there needs to be more understanding and co-operation.

"We're different out in the country; we have different needs than the city people," said farmer Don McNeely.

The City of Ottawa says it recognizes these differences and the need to address them. So, in response to a survey that found rural residents are less satisfied with city services than urban residents, City Hall is considering a two-day rural summit in the fall.

The summit, yet to be approved by city council, would cost an estimated $150,000 and would be an opportunity for farmers to voice their concerns.

"Urbanites are trying to run the rural areas and they have regulated us right to death, as far as I'm concerned," said Eric Dixon, a beef farmer for 40 years. "They are trying to run the rural area the same as they do the city and that just can't work."

Another farmer, Gabriel Lecavalier, argued that city bylaws should not be applied to rural areas. "The city has taken over the farm area, making it very difficult for the farmers, with all of the regulations and bylaws."

Some of the issues farmers say need attention are tax rates, by-laws regulating noise, animal control, and property standards, as well as road repairs.

 The Ottawa Citizen 2005