The dodo bird is losing its feathers

Several years ago at an East Peace 4-H Achievement Day I made a comment to Michael Ochran. I asked him where all the potential 4-H members were.

His reply?

“There are no more farmers!”

The answer was so stark-raving obvious I didn’t think before asking. The bovine experts in Readerland know all about mad cow disease and hoof rot. Well, I had a short bout of foot in mouth disease, which we are all prone to form time to time.

His point is well taken. As big farms swallow up more and more of the little guys, the rural farming population is disappearing faster than Justin Trudeau’s popularity at a Fort McMurray Conservative party fundraiser.

A few years ago [ahem!] when I was a child, there was a farm every mile or two, sometimes two, three and four farms. Almost every farm had animals: cows, horses, pigs, and chickens. Goats and sheep were sparse. It is where a thriving 4-H club originated.

A couple weeks ago, a long tradition in High Prairie sadly came to an end. For the first time in at least 51 years, the High Prairie Men’s Curling Bonspiel was cancelled. The reason: lack of entries.

Between the High Prairie history book and South Peace News records, I have a list of each winner since 1968. I have no list of winners from 1963-67 but there is likely no doubt a men’s bonspiel was held each year, and therefore a bonspiel each year since 1956.

There used to be a time where curlers from around the Peace Country attended bonspiels in other communities. Many times, my Uncle Doug Clegg attended High Prairie’s. This is also a thing of the past, gone the way of the dodo bird.

When I was growing up, my parents curled. In fact, so did many of my uncles, aunts, neighbours, their older kids, and I am sure their dogs and cats if given a chance. The point is all the rural people, aka farmers, curled.

Today, we have lost that entire rural demographic when it comes to curling. There are few farmers left who curl. Hey, you have to do something between fall harvest and spring seeding!

There is not turning back from this trend. The High Prairie Curling Club, with special mention to Lisa Zabolotniuk, has done an admirable if not Herculian job of implementing a junior program to teach children and youth the game, and – hopefully – create some curlers to support the club long term.

I wish them well against this tough battle.

It is truly ironic that curling is on such a downward trend locally and throughout Canada in rural communities, especially given the high ratings curling receives on TV.

Just maybe all those farmers are retired in seniors’ homes watching the grand old game.

I have no answer to solve the local problem. It is a trend in our local population demographic that is resulting in a detrimental change in curling.

The scary thing is like most sports, the costs are not going down. When you have less participants and increasing costs, the future looks very, very grim.

The cancellation of the High Prairie Men’s Bonspiel is another warning shot we should all take very, very seriously.

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