Reviving the Family Farm: A Proposal for Agri-Cultural Diversity

The family farm has not only been an icon of the Canadian prairies for over a century but it has also been one of the primary means of human existence for thousands of farmers for decades. The farm is a tangible link between generations because of the shared passion for agriculture and the intense determination to endure economical, environmental and technological challenges present between current family farm owners and their predecessors.

With constant advancements in efficiencies surrounding technology and science, coupled with soaring land and equipment prices, farmers who are failing to keep up the pace are too often relinquishing their farms to large agricultural operations. Canadian agriculture is consolidating at an unprecedented rate leaving the future of the small family farm uncertain.

We have recently reached a critical moment in Canadian agriculture as it is expected that 40-80% of farms will change hands in the next decade, but the most important question is surprisingly;  “To who?”1. Young people who have the willingness to farm unfortunately often lack the capital to pursue it, while contrarily the young people with potential to inherit a family farm are often deterred by financial concerns and probable operating stresses.

This design thesis will seek to explore and better understand the demise of the small family farm and to identify potential opportunities for adaption and innovation within the current conditions. It will aim to introduce a new perspective on farming and the lifestyle that accompanies the practice, with the hope of creating an opportunity for young people to establish a position in the industry. This thesis will question how architecture can be used as a tool to help diversify a small farm and provide it with the economic stability necessary for a desirable and feasible future for younger generations. Finally, it will question how architecture can work in collaboration with agricultural processes in creating a contemporary and cooperative place for agriculture, commerce, family, and community.

1The Family Farm. Directed by Ari A. Cohen. Canada: Rotating Planet Productions, 2014.