Building a thriving farm business takes time – and daycare support!

Posted: Mar 3, 2017

 

The NFU-NB has been working on getting farm families access to the Daycare Assistance Program since 2012 when it was first brought up by our membership. After numerous meetings and media interviews, the program is finally under official review.  On February 2, 2017, the NFU-NB met with government representatives to discuss the unique needs of farm families.  Read our full submission at nfunb.org.

This commentary is by Eva Rehak, former NFU-NB Women’s president and co-owner of Ferme Alva Farm.  She and her partner Alain farm full-time in Saint-Maurice de Kent, along with their three children.

In April 2009, my partner and I learned that we were pregnant with our first daughter. We were living in Canmore, AB at the time and saving up to buy a farm. We were young, kind of crazy and full of enthusiasm so we thought that this was the perfect time to pack up and find our dream spot. We decided that we would farm and settle in the Acadian Peninsula for the summer because NB was our top choice for buying land.

Long story short, in December of that year we moved to our permanent home in Saint-Maurice, Kent County. So now I was a mother, a home-owner and a soon-to-be farmer. It was a lot to take in for this city girl from the Greater Toronto Area.

Our first year went well – we had a very small garden, a fifteen partner/member CSA, and a small kid to take care of. We thought we had this farming thing really figured out. After finishing our first year we quickly realized that we needed to up the ante and decided to double our CSA and market production.

We needed more time to farm so we placed our daughter in daycare part-time. After two months we took Rose out of daycare because we simply could not afford continue to pay the $600 a month fee. When we spoke with our daycare we learned that there was a program for low income parents. The program, we thought, would allow us both to continue farming full-time.

This is when we discovered that farmers (like any self-employed individuals) could not benefit from the program. We fit the bill in those early years – we were making less than $30,000 a year – so why not us? I’ve been actively pursuing this issue for the past 5 years with the NFU-NB. While there have been meetings and consultations with the current and previous governments, there have been no meaningful changes that allow farmers to actually access the program.

Fortunately, we persevered and somehow made it work, raising three kids and starting a farm business.  We can now proudly say that we’re living off the land.  We will be putting our youngest son in daycare as soon as a spot opens up (another issue for rural families!), but we would no longer qualify for the low income parent program, as we no longer make below $30,000 a year.  I am continuing to push for access to this program because it would have allowed us to dedicate more time to our farm in the early years, which, in turn, would have made us profitable in a shorter time period.  I’ve only been farming for seven years and in that time I’ve seen farms pop up and disappear almost as quickly because this is such a hard job.  Allowing future farmers to be included in the Day Care Assistance Program would guarantee a greater chance of success. We don’t need a new logo – we need concrete actions by our government that will allow new and existing farmers to thrive and develop their businesses.