Farmland Preservation (Ontario Federation of Agriculture)
Category Farm Lifestyle

The topic of farmland preservation has been discussed across the industry for many years.  Some people may look outside or drive through the country and think “There’s lots of farmland”.  They wouldn’t be wrong.  Ontario is a very large province and Canada is a huge country!  So, why are we worried about losing more?  Cathy Lennon, General Manager Ontario Federation of Agriculture, joined us to chat about where we are losing that land and why it’s important to protect.

Cathy – “We do have lots of land here. But I think a statistic that is maybe not that well known is less than 5% of the land in Ontario is actually suitable for agriculture. While we are a gigantic province and a significantly large country, there’s actually a very small amount of land that can be used to grow crops and livestock across the province. So that’s why it’s very important to us.”

Below is a few more highlight of the full interview with Cathy. You can listen to the entire podcast episode on your favourite player or app including Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon and Stitcher.  Don’t forget to follow and/or subscribe to hear about all new episodes!


About the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA)

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is the largest general farm organization in Ontario.  They are farmer led, by 18 Directors from across the province who represent and champion the interest of farmers.  OFA uses their platform to advocate for sustainable farming and food sector on issues that impact all members including farmland preservation.

Ontario is a tremendously rich and diverse province when it comes to agriculture.  We have a significant amount of high quality farmland across the province.  We are very fortunate to be able to produce not only enough for our own population, but to export as well.  As the public continues to become more local focused and the issue of food security looms, protecting this land is vital to Ontario remaining a large agricultural producer.


It’s Hard to Imagine

The topic of farmland preservation is important, but like all important issues it’s not without it’s challenges.  Government involvement is necessary to establish standards that state the value of farmland preservation and how it can and cannot be developed.  Public engagement and education are also very important.  An impact assessment, for a new project, can ensure it’s being done correctly and with minimal impact to the surrounding area.

Cathy – “from 1996 till 2016. Ontario lost 1.5 million acres of farmland. And to break that down, because that’s hard to visualize what is 1.5 million acres of land. It’s about 175 acres of land every single day throughout that period. A way to envision that the typical farm here in Ontario is about 250 acres. So 250 acres somewhere in that range.  [About] 175 acres of farmland taken out of production every single day is almost the equivalent of one family farm every day fewer in this province…..We want to make sure that when we look at development, it’s in the right place, that it’s not encroaching on farmland [or]  taking farmland out of production.”

Farmers continue to be the definition of innovative.  Producing more with less and continuing to focus on research and best practices.  The agricultural and agri-food sectors adopt new technology and methods to reduce their impact on the environment for future generations.  They are huge advocates and often provide direction into the future of their communities.  By working with their town officials many are beginning to create plans out 20, 30 & 50 years to proactive identify areas best suited for development.

Cathy – “You know, the best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago. The second best time is today. You know [the same goes] for protecting farmland, the best time was probably also 30 or 50 years ago.  We need to keep our eye on that and say this is an incredibly valuable resource. Once it’s been given away, it can’t be brought back.  We’ve got to hang on to it.”


Final Thoughts

The OFA supports the preservation of farmland to support agricultural activities across the province.  The importance of protecting Ontario’s productive land can not be overstated.  Without this continued focus, there will not be much access to our diverse Ontario products!

As population growth and rural development continue to rise, the conversation around food security needs to go hand in hand.  More than ever, we see the need for increased protections. Education to understand the value this land brings to our communities and economy.

To learn more about the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the work they are doing to protect farmland and more than 38,000 farm members visit their website here.

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