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How to Save our Ontario Farmland

Save Ontario Farm Land

Between 1996-2016, Ontario saw equivalent of 5 family farms paved under each week.

Over the past two decades, Ontario lost farmland at a rate of 175 acres (about 70 hectares) a day, the equivalent of five family farms each week, according to a recent analysis of census data from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). 

That loss has largely been on the urban rim of Ontario’s cities, where outer suburbs meet with some of the country’s best-quality soil, which is being replaced by houses on large lots, new roads, highways and strip malls at a daily magnitude roughly equivalent to 135 football fields between 1996 and 2016, the OFA said. 

The analysis is part of a new advocacy campaign launched this month by the farm group, which seeks to give the preservation of Ontario farmland used for food production new urgency.

Among the most recent threats to farm country, according to the OFA, are Minister’s Zoning Orders, or MZOs, a powerful mechanism used by the province to override local councils to fast-track development that, until the election of the Progressive Conservative government under Doug Ford, was rarely used in the province. 

Save Ontario Farm Land

Use of MZOs raises ‘significant issues’ for farmers

“There’s significant issues with MZOs and the lack of long-term planning,” said OFA president Peggy Brekveld, a northern Ontario dairy farmer. 

She pointed to a number of recent examples where Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark used his extraordinary power to override local planning processes, including fast tracking a housing development in Caledon, a Chinese-owned glass factory in Stratford, as well as a number of other developments in the Greater Toronto Area

While Brekveld criticized the government, she fell short of answering whether farmers, who are among the Ontario PC government’s biggest supporters, may also be its biggest victims when it comes to MZOs. 

“It’s a great question, but I’m not going to go there. Instead, I’m going to say everybody benefits if we look at long-term land use planning.” 

However, the province told CBC News that it only uses MZOs when a local community asks for it. 

“MZOs issued by our government on non-provincially owned lands have been at the request of local municipalities,” Krystle Caputo, director of communications for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, wrote in an email. 

“The previous Liberal government carved up the Greenbelt 17 times, so it is no surprise they were losing 175 acres of farmland per day,” she said. 

London, Ont., home to some of best land in Canada

The problem of urban expansion is of particular concern in the fast-growing London region, where large swathes of some of the best farmland in Canada  have been paved over in the last half-century for shopping malls and suburban housing developments. 

“Look at how much London has grown,” said Crispin Colvin, a Thorndale area farmer and an executive member of the OFA board of directors. “Masonville being the cattle farm that it once was in the ’70s and ’80s and to the PetSmart and Loblaws. It’s a big problem.”

Colvin said beyond London, many of the small towns and villages that fall into the city’s orbit are also growing quickly, as more people push outwards trying to find cheaper land outside the city — turning places such as Ilderton or Lucan, Ont., into bedroom communities. 

“All of that is class one, two and three land, which is the best land in the country, let alone Ontario, and we only have about one per cent of all land in Ontario that fits into those classes of one, two and three.”  

Under the Canada Land Inventory or CLI, land is graded for its potential agricultural use from one to seven, one being the highest potential for use in mechanized agriculture with high to moderate nutrients and seven being the least, including marshland, rock and steep slopes. 

“The more we lose class one, two and three farmland, the less opportunity we have to grow locally,” Colvin said, noting that Waterloo Region is among the only urban areas in Ontario that shows a preference for building up rather than out. 

Save Ontario Farm Land

Urban growth threatens rural sustainability

The OFA argues the current practice of destroying farmland in favour of urban development at a rate of 175 acres daily is unsustainable because if it continues, it could one day affect the country’s food sovereignty, whereby a people have control of their own food and nutrition from growth to consumption. 

“We lose sight of the fact that food is the most important aspect of development that we should be looking at. We should be protecting our food source.

“If we continue down this path, ultimately Ontario and Canada could be a net importer of food rather than a net exporter of food and that could change our whole economic structure as well, not just our concern with food security.”

Colvin said one only has to look as far as the COVID-19 pandemic to understand what happens to nations who do not control the supply of vital commodities such as food, which he likens to vaccines in the current health crisis. 

“Countries that had vaccine ability were keeping it for their populations and their people. Imagine what would happen if we end up doing the same thing with food?” 


Author Credit:

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who’s worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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Pro’s & Con’s of Living in the Country

Save Ontario Farm Land

There are many benefits to living in the country. I have lived in big cities, small towns & the rural country side, all in Southwestern Ontario. For me the choice has always been a simple one – live in the country! With a Global Pandemic, the choice is even more clear!!

Country Living

But before you pack up everything and move to the country, there are a few things you should know, because we do things a little different out here.

The Downside of Country Life

  1. Nothing Happens Fast – It’s a slower pace than the city, and a 5 minute trip to the Post Office could take better than an hour depending on who you run into! We are very social here. We stop to chat, catch up or lend a hand when needed.
  2. Slow Moving Vehicles – We know where our food comes from and we appreciate the hard work and long hours of our farmers. So when we get stuck behind a slow moving farm vehicle, we wait patiently until we can get around them.
  3. Plan Ahead – Everything is a commute, grocery store, entertainment and friends. It’s important to have a good stock of food, water and necessities in the event that you can’t get out due to weather.
  4. Fresh Country Air – The spring and fall is a busy time for farmers in the field. One of their tasks is to fertilize the land, and we do this by spreading manure. Depending on the application and the livestock, this can cause a few hours of potent stench that is carried by the wind! It’s best to NOT hang your laundry to dry outside on these days.
  5. Uber Eats does not exist – If you want take out, plan to pick it up because no one delivers out here! You need to drive to get your groceries, your booze, your dinner, and just about anything else you want. We do get Amazon deliveries…
Fresh Country Air
Fresh Country Air!!

Now, let’s get to the Benefits of Country Living!

  1. Clean Air – The further you get from the city, the more your air quality improves. Researchers have a few ideas for why this might be, including less pollution, greater abundance of trees and grass, and perhaps even exposure to cell-improving phytochemicals that get released from plants, fungi, and microbes. Pollution in more heavily-populated areas comes not only from a lack of greenery, but also tiny yet harmful particles released into the air from trucks, buses, cars, factories, and other mainstays of urban environments. These particles travel into the lungs, where they impair breathing and increase the risk of serious illness. Escaping this polluted air for the country means better breathing and better protection against chronic conditions like asthma and heart disease.
  2. Less Crime – Residents in rural areas are less likely to be the victims of a wide range of crimes versus those who are living in the city or suburbs. These include simple and aggravated assault, robbery, and theft. Part of the reason for this is just a sheer numbers game—there are less people in the country, thus less opportunity for crime to occur.  Crime can happen anywhere, and the country certainly isn’t guaranteed to be completely free of it. Still, if you’re looking to live somewhere where you can feel more comfortable letting your kids ride their bikes alone to school or leaving your windows open for a cool breeze while you sleep, statistically the country is going to be your best bet.
  3. Better Mental Health – Your brain actually functions differently in the country. Living in an urban environment over-stimulates two key, and potentially harmful, regions of the brain: the areas that regulate emotion and anxiety. Scientists believe this is the reason they see higher rates of mental health problems in cities than non-urban areas. In the country, the brain is less likely to experience this kind of overstimulation. The benefits? A lower risk of anxiety disorders and mood disorders. There is also research showing that city living increases schizophrenia risk, likely due to unknown environmental factors that impact developing brains. You’re not going to be able to completely prevent a mood disorder or mental illness just because you live in the country, nor are you guaranteed to have less stress in your life simply because you’re out of the city. But you are going to avoid some of the increased risk factors for these psychological ailments that are deeply connected with city life, and it’s a benefit of country living worth considering.
  4. Connect with Nature – Being outside in the open air is connected with many of the benefits of country living. And while you don’t have to go out to the country to find some sunshine and trees, head out to rural land and you’ll definitely find more of it than you will in the cities and the ‘burbs. As for specific benefits, immersing yourself in a natural environment is good for everything from improving your short term memory to lowering your blood pressure. It might even make you more creative. Spending more time in nature is a great way to improve your health, and when you’re living the country life, you don’t have to go very far to reap the benefits. Natural paradise can be found right outside of your door, instead of a car or bus ride away.
  5. Access to Fresh, Locally Grown Food – Out in my own country paradise, I don’t have a Whole Foods within 30 miles of me but I do have multiple farms, all within a ten minute drive, where I can buy fresh eggs, fruits, and veggies right from the source. The type of food that our bodies really need is in abundance out in the country, as is available land if you want to start growing your own. In the city, access to unprocessed, healthy foods is not quite so extensive. Urban food deserts are especially problematic in low-income areas, where small markets and gas station snack bars often stand in for fancy organic grocery stores. In the country, even those with less to spend can easily purchase high-quality foods for cleaner diets. There are many pros to eating organic foods, chief among them less exposure to the harmful pesticides used to produce food on a mass level.
  6. Sense of Community – Along with the improvements to your Mental Health, is a feeling of connectedness or belonging. As humans, we were designed to live in colonies or groups. We rely on our friends, family and neighbours to support us. As a Mental Health worker for the past 15 years, I understand the value of Community! The more you give to your community, the more you get back! There are teams, clubs, committees and organizations who are in need of your skill set. By joining in on the growth and development of your community, you are also contributing to your own growth and development as a person. When hard times fall (and they will|), it is comforting to know that the community that you have supported for year, comes to your aid without even asking!!! Everything you need will be provided for you; warm meals, shelter, a strong back or a ride, we’re always here to help!

Summary

Life in the Country is very different from the hustle and bustle of City Life. Here are a few Tips to ensure your Success!:

  1. Get to know your Neighbours you will need them!
  2. Slow Down! – Out here, Life is not a race.
  3. Change your definition of Entertainment.
  4. Learn to grow your own food!
  5. Volunteer your time – it will come back to you!
  6. Don’t expect us to change to fit your needs – assimilation may be required!

So many people have come to our farm for a visit. They love the clean air, the expansive views, the floral fragrances and the peace of mind. But after a while, they always ask, “Don’t you get lonely out here all by yourself?” If you can’t be alone with yourself, don’t move to the country. I know several people who are married with kids living at home and they feel lonely. Again, this is about the sense of connectedness. I am totally connected to myself and I love being alone, I am never lonely! I also know that I have friends, family & neighbours who will pop by if I ever needed them.

Country Living During a Pandemic

This pandemic hasn’t really changed us out here. We have always socially distanced, as much as we appreciate a good party with lots of people, we are ok just watching the sun set from the back porch. We still drop in on our neighbours to check up on them, we still chat for hours outside the grocery store and we are never bored because the To-Do list never ends.

NKFarms.ca

Naturally Knotty Farms

We are committed to providing our neighbours with FRESH, Locally Grown Fruits & Veggies.

We teach sustainable gardening practices without the use of harsh chemicals. Understanding Bio-diversity and working with Nature to provide the best soil conditions that will produce nutrient-dense foods.

Plan your visit to the Farm!! We’d love to show you around!!

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What’s Happening on the Farm

nkfarms.ca

A lot has happened on the farm in the past couple days and I thought I’d take a minute to give you an update.

Garden Plans

If you follow our Facebook Page, you know that we have a HUGE expansion planned for the garden this year. Last year, we planted enough for ourselves and shared what was left over with our neighbours. We received rave reviews about our cantaloupe, watermelon and tomatoes. Our neighbours had never tasted melons fresh from the garden. If you have never had melon fresh from the vine, you really need to try it. The taste is beyond compare.

So, with that in mind, Bob & I sat down to order our seeds and the shipments have started to arrive. Our seed inventory is so huge and diverse, we had to call in an expert to help us plan the garden. We have contracted Colin Nigh, who is an Environmental & Geography Major at the University of Waterloo. Colin embodies our vision for the farm which is to work WITH Nature, not against her. We will be using Companion Planting, including the 3 Sisters to ensure the best possible harvest. We will be avoiding the use of chemicals, pesticides & herbicides and instead will be adapting age old ideas to reduce the weeds, pests & predator’s.

bunnies on the farm

Garden Bunnies

This winter we have noticed that a family of Rabbits have moved onto the property. As cute as these little guys are, they would love to benefit from the fruits of our labour. One natural deterrent for rabbits is the common garter snake.

By building a rock wall on one side of the garden, we hope the snakes will move in and the rabbits will move out. Snakes will also eat slugs and deter mice. Snakes natural habitat is under old logs, rocks, or anywhere that is cool and damp.

I should apologize to our neighbours, as I’m sure they will be hosting our unwanted guests.

With the bunnies gone, this should also move the coyotes away from us as well.

Plans for the Harvest

This year we have chosen a unique collection of seeds and will grow the standards; tomatoes, onions, peppers and sweet corn. But we have also chosen some less traditional seeds:

  • Personal Size Seedless Watermelon – these watermelons are small in comparison to what you’re used to, but the flavour is amazing!
  • Loofa – yes, we are going to grow the loofa sponge that you have been using in your shower for years. This is a gourd that when dried, leaves you with the netted interior making it the perfect natural exfoliator.
  • Pop Corn – Have you ever popped corn while it’s still on the cob? Our pop corn will have black kernels, but the same fluffy white interior that you’re used to. Simply place the entire cob in a brown paper bag after lightly brushing it with olive oil. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, pull out the cob and enjoy a bag of fresh, untreated pop corn!!!
  • Bird House Gourds – Again this is a gourd that when left to dry, the birds will love! We are hoping that COVID will allow us to do onsite tutorials to build your own Bird House!
  • Broom Stick Corn – This is not an edible corn, but a decorative one. It will enhance your exterior fall decor and make you the envy of your neighbourhood!!

Subscription Boxes

We are making arrangements to offer our produce in Subscription Boxes and are still working out the details. We are also hoping to offer Specialty Boxes such as a Salsa Box that will allow you to make a batch of Salsa at home, Chili Box that will contain the beans, veggies & seasonings required for an amazing pot of chili and a few more. Be sure to LIKE our Facebook Page or Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay up to date on these ideas.

Additions to Our Farm Team

Our goal from the start was to use this farm to create a community and build a family business that will carry on through generations. This is a pretty big task, so we have contracted some more help:

  • Dana Dixon will be taking over as Finisher, in the shop with Bob. She comes to us with brilliant ideas, natural talent and a very keen eye for detail. There is no doubt that you will love her work!! She will also be working in the kitchen to create some amazing products using the harvest from the farm.
  • Wesley Edgar is our Marketing Manager and will work with Andrea on all the “backend” business stuff. I guess you could call us the unsung heroes of the farm! (lol)
  • Colin Nigh is our Garden Manager

Colin, Dana & Wes; Bob & I welcome you to the Farm and look forward to watching this project develop!!!

We are hoping that others will be joining our Team soon!

Community Involvement

As most of you know, I have a career based in Community Service and it is very important to both of us that we give back to the amazing community that continues to support us through this journey. We are hoping to work with our local Food Bank to provide them with fresh produce for their clients.

We will also be looking into working with our local High School to offer Volunteer Hours to their students.

Busy Year on the Farm

All told, it will be a very busy year here on the farm. Bob will be busy in the shop working on your Custom Orders. The Team will be busy building, planting, harvesting, finishing & planning new and exciting projects. We’re hoping to have you here as much as possible as well so you can follow along on our journey and hopefully get involved!

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Naturally Knotty Farms