Wednesday, February 10, 2021

I Dissent

What does Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the late and celebrated American Supreme Court Justice have to do with agriculture on PEI? Perhaps not much, but her famous dissentions have inspired this letter. Because like Ruth was, I am a member of a collective in which I am often the minority opinion, and likewise, my opinion is rarely represented or supported by the collective, in this case the PEI Federation of Agriculture. I am a farmer and I support other farmers, which is why I continue to support farm organizations and hold membership with them, expecting them to represent my voice and values to higher authorities. 

Sadly, I’ve watched my representative organization continue to rally around decisions that support economy over environment, corporations over small farms and commodities over communities. The most recent push to remove the moratorium over high capacity wells and increase the capacity for irrigation has me feeling like a very small voice in a large room. 
I receive newsletters encouraging me to contact my MLA regarding “the water issue”, assuming I will rally support for increased irrigation and water usage. But as I work in the buckle of the potato belt, waking to the whine of sprayers most mornings, watching soil wash into our deteriorating waterways, washing blowing red dirt off my siding, I struggle to get behind the chorus for measures that would facilitate even more industrialized exploitation of our resources.
Three new ‘ponds’ have been constructed within 5km of our farm in the last few weeks and while I of course do not support the use of high capacity wells for golf courses or leisure activities either, I cannot allow those objections to prevent me from acknowledging the short-sightedness of further loosening of regulations around our water. And while I abhor the pressure that farmers feel to take perfectly arable land out of production to build huge well-water-fed ponds, I again cannot let my empathy for their position overshadow my concerns for the water the future farmers and generations will be able to access. 


So while my farming organization calls on politicians to consider the plight of drought-affected producers, with irrigation as the solution, I dissent.

Escarpment Blues by Sarah Harmer

If they blow a hole in my backyard
Everyone is gonna run away
The creeks won't flow to the Great Lake below
Will the water in the wells still be okay?

We'll keep driving on the Blind Line
If we don't know where we want to go
Even knowledge that's sound can get watered down
Truth can get sucked out the car window
We're two thirds water
What do we really need?
But sun, showers
Soil and seed
We're two thirds water
The aquifers provide
Deep down in the rock
There's a pearl inside
If they blow a hole in the backbone
The one that runs across the muscles of the land
We might get a load of stone for the road
But I don't know how much longer we can stand


  1. It's interesting that Sally wrote this in the week that Daryl Guignon died. Both of you come to your well-earned convictions from experience and thoughtful intelligence. One important voice lost, another carrying on. We're lucky for that. Ian

    1. Ian, I am honoured to even be in the same sentence as Daryl, I can only dream of the connection to and deep knowledge of PEI ecosystems that he held. I aspire to the inspiration and reverence he instilled in so many. Your voice is equally valued and appreciated on this small island we call home. Thank you for your kind words and for still reading this soapbox! :)

  2. I wonder if huge well-water-fed ponds are creating problems for local water table levels and residential wells.

    Sally and Mark, did your crops manage ok in last year's drought?

    IF irrigation is justified, might it be better to have limited capacity, metered deep-water wells?