Cross-Canada tractor tour comes to Delta
If you plot a course from Charlottetown, PEI, to Victoria, B.C. in Google Maps, the travel time is estimated at 75 hours of continuous driving.
For documentary filmmakers John Varty and Molly Daley their driving time is a whopping 548 hours and counting.
That's because the two have spent the past year driving a bright-red tractor across Canada, speaking to farmers about agriculture, urbanization, and the future of farmland.
"Right now we're just getting farmer's stories on camera and we're quick to emphasize we're not teaching farmers anything," said Daley during a stop Thursday (Sept. 13) at Westham Island Herb Farm in Delta. "We're getting their voices and faces on camera so that urbanites can know what it is Canadian farmers struggle with to put food on our tables so cheaply and safely."
Varty drives in the tractor's cab, while Daley sits on the "porch" of their little garden shed they tow behind them and sleep in at night.
Their journey began last July and they reached Sault Ste-Marie in November before deciding to take a few months off for the harsh winter conditions. The maximum speed on the tractor is 28 km/h, so it's a leisurely pace.
"And that's holding the throttle down," laughs Daley.
Varty, 41, is a university professor in agricultural economics and trade who has taught at McMaster in Hamilton and Yale in the United States. He comes from a seventh generation farming family in Hastings County, Ontario.
Daley, 22, is from New York with a background in public relations and marketing, which helps with the promotion of the documentary.
Daley estimates the trip has cost the couple $90,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, though they've had some help along the way. Home Hardware is a sponsor and the tractor itself was donated by Massey-Ferguson, which has had 37 flat tires on the trip.
They restarted their trip in June, driving through the rest of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C., before getting stopped in Revelstoke by ICBC.
The RCMP were informed there was a slow moving vehicle on the Trans Canada highway. After calling the province's public insurance company, it was determined a permit couldn't be issued to be on the highway without a "pilot" vehicle alerting other drivers.
After waiting 11 days in Revelstoke for a permit from ICBC, they finally gave up and had to be towed to Vancouver.
They reached Delta on Sept. 12, spending the day visiting farms and filming.
"It's such an interesting area for us to talk to people because you're on the urban fringe," said Daley. "It's very interesting to see farmland so close to a major city like this and it's getting pushed from all angles with the port and Vancouver, and the housing developments."
A local Westham Island farmer listening to Varty speak to a group of about 15 people said it's rare that anyone asks farmers their opinion.
Ryan Lundstrum, 27, has been potato farming for the past five years, but lived on the island his whole life. His great-grandfather began farming on the island over a century ago. He said he's concerned there will be no farmland left a century from now.
"Southern B.C. has some of the greatest farmland around," he said, but he believes it will disappear to the pressure of development.
"The only reason Westham Island would be preserved is if it's a park."
The filmmakers were in Victoria on Friday (Sept. 14), where they were expected to wrap up their trip. But Daley said they plan to return to B.C. again one day to see the parts they missed, like the fertile Okanagan Valley.