By: Mike Schreiner
Published: Guelph Mercury, Sept 10, 2013
I love eating local food. Thankfully, I live in Ontario where we are blessed with good weather, good farmland and great farmers.
We grow more than 200 varieties of food here.
Sadly, Ontario is losing so much farmland to development that it threatens our ability to enjoy local food. We lose approximately 350 acres of farmland every day. This is not sustainable.
We need farmland to grow food. Yet we continue to pave over prime farmland because of poorly planned growth. The bottom line is, we can’t eat subdivisions, quarries, highways or pipelines.
Less than five per cent of Ontario’s land is suitable for growing food. Over half of Canada’s prime farmland is in Ontario. You can see one-third of it from the CN Tower on a clear day. Less than 0.5 per cent of Ontario’s land is class 1 prime farmland.
Tragically, while the local food movement becomes more popular, the rate of farmland loss is actually increasing. From 2001 to 2006, the province lost about 197,000 acres, or about 100 acres per day. From 2006-2011 farmland loss increased to 641,980 acres or around 130,000 acres per year. This is an annual loss of farmland equal to the size of Toronto.
Losing farmland not only threatens our ability to feed ourselves, it also jeopardizes our economy. The food and farming sector employs more than 700,000 people, contributes more than $30 billion to Ontario’s bottom line and is essential to the health of our local economy.
The provincial government must commit to protecting prime farmland before it is too late.
Although the status quo at Queen’s Park is slow to take action on this important issue, citizens are mobilizing to protect farmland.
The same group that stopped the Melancthon Township mega-quarry has launched a Food and Water First campaign (foodandwaterfirst.com). A local group has developed an innovative proposal to set aside 36 acres of the York District lands (the former Guelph Correctional Centre) for diverse small-scale farming initiatives. Others have raised concerns about new highway construction, quarries and pipelines.
We need political leadership that supports these citizen efforts. We need a long-term vision that looks beyond the next big development project, that understands how important protecting food and water is to our economy, community and well-being. This starts by protecting prime farmland from development and making sure we have the right safeguards in place for source water protection.
Our children will thank us when they bite into a crisp Ontario apple, a crunchy local carrot or a sweet ear of corn