Farmland that supports food production is a finite and shrinking resource. Once it’s paved over, it’s gone forever.
That’s the message behind Home Grown, a new advocacy campaign launched by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). Home Grown focuses on protecting and preserving farmland and domestic food production. The campaign, which launched earlier this month, aims to increase awareness on the issue and enhance consumer knowledge about the negative impacts of urban development on Ontario’s agri-food system.
Farmland preservation is vital to ensure the next generation has a strong, reliable food supply. However, urban sprawl is threatening the viability and sustainability of productive farmland in Ontario. Based on data from the latest Census of Agriculture (2016), approximately 175 acres of farmland is being lost every day to urban development in our province.
“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,” said 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.”
The harsh reality is that only five per cent of Ontario’s landscape can support the growth of food for human consumption. With an ever-growing population, that means farmers are dealing with added pressure by having to produce more yield with less inputs and a declining land base. The agri-food sector depends on farmland to effectively produce food, fibre and fuel for the province.
OFA understands that urban growth and development matters. It’s important for economic growth and prosperity for the province. But where our food comes from matters too. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the demand for local food production. Consumers, now more than ever before, are looking for locally grown produce, meats and dairy products.
When it comes to growth, the government has the authority to determine where and how urban development happens using Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs). The government has the ability to bypass long-standing land use processes and rezone farmland for urban uses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, an MZO has been used six times in Ontario.
At the current rate, Ontario is losing an average of five farms per week to urban development. Along with farmland, significant wetlands, key shorelines, and forests are being threatened by urban sprawl. If this continues, the whole province will feel the effects.
Farmers grow and produce more than 200 different fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock, provide nearly 1 million jobs in the agri-food sector, and contribute more than $47 billion to the provincial economy.
“If Ontario is currently losing 175 acres per day, take a moment to think about how many carrots, strawberries or potatoes that is,” explained Brekveld. “Once farmland is turned into pavement or concrete, its ability to grow food never comes back.”
Domestic food production is vital to consumers and the economy. It’s safe, sustainable and reliable. OFA urges the prioritization of farmland protection and preservation of to ensure Ontario has viable farmland to grow grains, fruits and vegetables and raise our livestock for meat, poultry and dairy.
OFA encourages everyone to help protect our farms and food forever by engaging in the campaign and signing the online petition. Join the more than 3,700 people who have already signed on and make change happen today. Sign the petition here. For more details about the campaign, visit homegrown.ofa.on.ca.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is the largest general farm organization in Ontario, representing 38,000 farm families across the province. As a dynamic farmer-led organization based in Guelph, the OFA works to represent and champion the interests of Ontario farmers through government relations, farm policy recommendations, research, lobby efforts, community representation, media relations and more. OFA is the leading advocate for Ontario’s farmers and is Ontario’s voice of the farmer. For more information, visit ofa.on.ca.