My research mandate at the University of Saskatchewan is agriculture and rural industries, so I am keeping an eye out for what those terms mean in Canada. I saw this article on CBC today and it highlighted for me the ‘degrees of rural living’. The article describes how farmers are increasing their use of social media like twitter to connect with consumers, market their products, and describe their work. However, all the farmers they cite are in Southern Ontario or Nova Scotia, or the offices of the Edmonton-based Alberta Canola Board: all places with good connectivity to internet, smart phone data plans, and not so far from an urban centre and the infrastructure that comes with it.
Once I thought I grew up rurally, because my neighbors had cows and chickens and lot sizes were large (it was about 5 km to walk around the block), it was a 20min drive to a grocery store or a restaurant and no one picked up dog poo. However, I lived only 60km from Vancouver. Although we had a well, our power went out regularly and some considerable duration, and we had a walkability score of 0, we also had a full-service hospital in our town, 2 shopping malls, and lots of resources that come with living close to a big centre. In Saskatchewan, lots of farmers live in little hamlets and villages with a single mulch-purpose community building, no hospital, and low connectivity and technology adoption. A recent needs assessment of rural farm families found only 30% have internet connection, and a lot of those are on dial-up so they have a very slow download speed. Since they don’t always overlap, I suspect that this trend is spreading among ‘agricultural’ but not yet among ‘rural’ communities.overlap.