Couple travelling across Canada on a tractor hits costly roadblock in B.C.
Published Sunday, September 2, 2012 6:14PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 3, 2012 9:08AM EDT
An Ontario couple travelling across the country on a tractor to document the lives of Canadian farmers has been pulled off the road in British Columbia, just 600 kilometres shy of their final destination.
John Varty and his partner Molly Daley have spent the past two summers trekking across each province and collecting footage for a documentary they hope will raise awareness about the economic challenges Canadian family farms face.
The couple started their mission on July 1, 2011 in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and had hoped to wrap up the journey on Sept. 15 in Victoria, B.C.
But just as they neared the end of their trip, the pair hit a roadblock in the B.C. interior.
The Insurance Corporation of B.C. is demanding that Varty and Daley purchase an extra permit for their tractor and the RCMP is insisting they hire a slow-moving vehicle to accompany them for the remainder of their journey.
The vehicle is required to warn motorists of the slow-moving tractor, said the RCMP. The couple says they didn’t require a vehicle escort in any other provinces they crossed.
Varty told CTV British Columbia that the RCMP also forbade them from driving at all during the Labour Day long weekend.
“It just seems that there are an array of requirements here in B.C. that we have not heard anything about in any other province,” Varty, a former university professor who grew up on a family farm in Ontario, said.
Varty told CTVNews.ca that he and Daley must now decide whether to forge ahead with the journey as planned or sell their tractor and return to their Hamilton, Ont. home.
Varty said the cost of hiring a vehicle to accompany them will add substantially to their overhead. Varty estimates he’s already spent around $85,000 of his own money to fund the trip, not including the salary he’s given up to embark on the journey.
Also, the couple would like to return home as planned, as they have family members who have been taking care of their home and their pets, said Varty.
If the couple cannot secure funding to help them cover the cost of the accompanying vehicle, they will consider selling their tractor and returning home, said Varty.
If that happens, the pair will return to B.C. by plane to collect the stories of farmers from the West Coast.
“I've reached out to WestJet for a possible sponsorship whereby they agree to fly us back out here so that B.C. farmers aren't missed in the story. I'm waiting to hear back,” Varty said.
But he hopes he won’t have to quit this close to the end. He has the support of several hundred farmers urging him to continue.
“It is a little unfortunate that after all the goodwill we’ve had -- all of the farmers pouring out their emails and phone calls and telling us how grateful they are -- it is unfortunate that it looks like, for the time being anyways, B.C. farmers won’t get their voice in that story,” he said.
“We’ll find another way, but we’re so close. You’d like to think we could close this chapter in the next week and a half and B.C. people would be represented.”
Varty estimates he’s received around 700 messages of support from farmers either through Facebook or emails.
One Victoria-area farmer even offered to cover the cost of Varty and Daley’s ferry passage so that they could finish their trip in Victoria.
“Farmers love this thing and they want to see us succeed,” Varty said. “We’ve had direct emails from major farm organizations like the Canadian Federation of Agriculture giving us a strong note of support and acknowledging that what we’re doing for farmers is great.”
To date, Varty and Daley have travelled 6,500 kilometres at a speed averaging around 29 km/h.
The couple lives in an 80-square-foot "shack on wheels" that is towed by the tractor.
Throughout the journey, the couple has documented the stories of the country’s farmers on video. They have also interviewed politicians, food company executives and activists in an effort to educate Canadians about the issues facing small farm owners.
“For a whole array of reasons Canadian farmers are struggling and Canadian urbanites don’t know enough about our rural issues,” said Varty. “So I’m doing it to get that story out there.”
Varty and Daley’s trip has been funded by donations and their own savings.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Kent Molgat