The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has launched an advocacy campaign called Home Grown in an effort to decrease the loss of farmland to development.
“Once it’s paved over, it’s gone forever,” the organization says.
Home Grown focuses on protecting and preserving farmland and domestic food production, and is designed to increase awareness on the issue and enhance consumer knowledge about the negative impacts of urban development on Ontario’s agri-food system, OFA says. There is a petition circulating to collect signatures for support, as well.
Based on data from the latest Census of Agriculture (2016), approximately 175 acres of farmland is being lost every day to urban development in Ontario.
“When you look at your breakfast plate, the wheat in your bread, the milk in your glass, the strawberries in your jam; these things all come from a farmer,” says Peggy Brekveld, OFA president. “We have a choice to make – we need to decide if farmers are going to continue to grow food right here at home, for all Ontarians to enjoy, making a difference in our economy, our environment and our rural communities, or if that farmer is going to be feeding us from somewhere else.”
A growing population is putting significant pressure on Ontario’s remaining crop land. What’s more, Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) allows the provincial government to bypass land use processes and rezone farmland for urban uses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, an MZO has been used six times in Ontario, OFA says.
At the current rate, OFA says an average of five farms per week are lost to urban development. The development also threatens wetlands, shorelines, and forests.
The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) has added its voice to the OFA Home Grown campaign. “Protecting valuable pastureland which, according to Census data, is proven to be lost at a much higher rate than any other type of farmland, is extremely important to Ontario beef farmers. These losses are unsustainable and given the anticipated population growth in Ontario, Canada and the world, further priority and action by government is needed to protect farmland in order to maintain a sufficient supply of locally grown food,” BFO says.
BFO is encouraging its members to support the campaign and sign and circulate the petition.
Farming in Ontario is also an economic driver, providing nearly 1 million jobs in the agri-food sector, and contributing more than $47 billion to the provincial economy.
OFA encourages everyone to help protect our farms and food forever by engaging in the campaign and signing the online petition at homegrown.ofa.on.ca.