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Thoughts on Canadian families from a rural perspective

Emily Manns | Fulcrum Contributor

THE MODERN FAMILY has settled into the new ideal of only one or two children, which is a drastic change when you trace back along the lines of your family tree to the branches carrying five siblings or more. Why such a massive shift? It’s hard to say for certain. I can, however, speak for my own experience.

My family owns a small, rural goat farm dominated by trees and animal pastures. We’re made up of two parents and five children. All five kids share the same mom and dad—no remarried or divorced couples in this case. We’re a pretty average family that just happens to go against the newly developed cultural norms of family size. Pretty average, save for the goat farm, I guess.

Historically speaking, couples who devoted their lives to farming and agriculture were required to have many children. The reasons for this resided mostly within the occupation itself, which was much more physically demanding back then. Farms work on the basis of a routine, which is developed through trial and error before an ideal method can be determined. Every farm functions differently, but one thing stays the same: a lot of time and effort is required—believe me, I know.

Subsistence farming still exists to a certain extent—my goats can verify that claim—but anything working on a larger scale is usually connected to a much bigger business that has the money to employ all the help it needs. This allows them to manufacture food quickly and efficiently. It’s made my brand of rural, family farming increasingly rare.

There are a number of other reasons that help explain why family sizes are shrinking in Canada; financial status, location, career choice, marital status, age, and personal preference are all among those on the list. Is this trend a good thing? Now that we’ve passed the checkpoint of seven billion people inhabiting the Earth, is the new face that Canada is adopting a positive development? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that it makes my little goat farm that much more special.