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  Could Neil Young be at Farm Tribute Canada?
By Suzanne Atkinson - AgriNews Contributor

MILLBROOK - Ron Bonnett is the first to admit it and Rod DeWolde agrees.

Very few people would travel very far to hear either one of them sing.

But put nationally acclaimed musicians on a stage telling the agriculture story and the second vice president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and former OFA president, says politicians and the public will notice.

Speaking last month at the launch of Farm Tribute Canada's run-up to a weekend long musical extravaganza next summer, Bonnett said that Farm Aid concerts in the U.S. have succeeded in swaying both political will and America's wallet to support agriculture. He believes that can also happen in Canada.

Bonnett pointed out at a press conference here that while Canadian farmers have suffered through three tough years, American farmers have enjoyed unprecedented government support.

"There is a crisis in agriculture. It's a crisis of awareness of what the issues are facing agriculture," Bonnett said.

"When people act together they have clout," Bonnett said. "Canadians can make a change in attitudes... Farm Tribute Canada is about being a tool to create that awareness. Alone, we're not going to change policy but we can be a catalyst to change attitude. Using music will help and shape the awareness of the consumer and retailers."

"There's something powerful about a national stage. When you see Willie Nelson raise his arms in the air and ask who's the hero? That's powerful," FTC executive director Catherine Leal added as she discussed details of a competition for amateur artists which will lead up to the August concert in vacant field south west of Peterborough .

While the media pushed anxiously for details on the big names who will perform and the date of FTC's actual concert here, northeast of Oshawa, FTC organizers were promoting their web-site (; their work in linking stressed farmers with support organizations, and promoting a series of "legacy," projects which will support agriculture long after the concert has concluded.

FTC's musical venues will kick off this month with a series of competitions for five different musical genres. The grand prize winner kicks off the main event in August.

The closest FTC executive director Catherine Leal came to announcing a name act was the admission that Ian Tyson had joined local teenage sensation Jimmy Bowskill in the admission that it would be "an honour," to be part of FTC.

But on more than one occasion Leal and associate director Lynda Todd have hinted that Neil Young will perform. A Toronto launch had coincided with Young's recent tour there, but was postponed with Todd explaining "he doesn't do that sort of thing when he's on tour." When asked further about the renowned artist, Leal replied "you better start working on your questions."

FTC producer Glyn Evans of Stonehenge Media Group promised that the concert will be filmed, though not necessarily broadcast live.

The Toronto launch is planned for sometime this month.

The legacy fund's multi-pronged initiatives are intended to help farmers develop market solutions; "cope with the daily complex challenges they face,"...encourage agriculture as a career; tell the "the real life stories of Canadian farming families;" honour "leaders in the Canadian agriculture industry," through the creation of the FTC outstanding achievement awards in agriculture and present 10 annual scholarships for students representing all regions of Canada.

Meanwhile the event here was kicked off with the performance of the Brian Todd-commissioned song, "Feed the Cities" in which the Millbrook man reflects on the benefits of growing up on a family farm.

"My brothers and sisters, we learned to work together as a team; Pushed ourselves and each other to realize our dreams," he sang. "Collectively we've solved the problems of the world but nobody's asked us yet..." he concluded, flanked by the musical group the Weber Brothers, and joined by local children's choir Joyful Noise.

FTC board member Dave Newman insisted that FTC is not a political organization and has no political agenda.

"It has not been founded... to promote a particular political party or make a statement. It's there to encourage awareness of producers, processors and consumers.

"There are people in Toronto who don't know that food doesn't come to us initially in shrink wrap." Newman said.

But chairman Greg Brown was still encouraging the local community to take ownership of the project, though municipal council has agreed to contribute $20,000 to the project.

"I'm issuing a challenge to people and businesses to get on side and be prepared to contribute in any way you can."

Councillor Jim Chaplin agreed.

"I think this is a tremendous idea...This is a huge undertaking. I'm impressed with what I'm hearing and hopefully we'll see this thing come to fruition."

"This is not a parachute event. It needs the community to be behind it... This concert is just the beginning," Newman said.

"You can't make a blanket statement about agriculture in Canada," Bonnett said, noting that "at any one time the price can be up and down... but the margins have been shrinking and shrinking and shrinking.

"Here we have sector that has a real problem sustaining itself.

"You see large buildings and big tractors and you think everything is good. They're just the infrastructure that we require," he told the press conference of local media.

"Price ‘blips' suggest that things here are turning around, but these producers are paying off seven years of low prices."

Bonnett was joined at the press conference by Rod DeWolde, a hog farmer and president of the Peterborough Federation of Agriculture. With hogs losing $50 a head as they go to market, DeWolde said his sector is continuing to exist week to week.

"I have enough feed for this week and I hope to still be in business when this concert comes," he said.

No date has been announced for the concert which will be held on a Melody Homes development site at Highways 28 and 115.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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