Food & Water First: Making News!

Steve Peters, Carl Cosack and Dale Goldhawk

Steve Peters, Carl Cosack and Dale Goldhawk

The Food & Water First Public Meeting (April 5) made headlines and not because of the unexpected spring snowstorm that closed the local roads! The Shelburne Free Press published an extensive article entitled Food & Water First: Fighting the Larger Battle.

Shelburne Free Press

The Creemore Echo focused on the presentation made by Tom Eisenhauer of Bonnefield Financial, the investment firm that purchased the former Highland property. Its focus: Farmland Stays if Farmland Pays.

Creemore Echo

 

We are of the Land

Despite a spring snowstorm, the Food & Water First Public Meeting (April 5) was a tremendous success! About 200 people attended the Shelburne gathering to learn more about Ontario’s rare agricultural soil, the province’s $34-billion agri-food sector and the fate of the farmland once threatened with the Mega Quarry.

Professor Rene Van Acker

Professor Rene Van Acker

Three speakers addressed the packed meeting, starting with Professor Rene Van Acker, a soil expert from the University of Guelph. He described the value of Ontario’s prime farmland and regular rainfall, how this combination of soil and climate is unique. He explained that the most prosperous countries are those with the most rain-fed agricultural land. But Professor Van Acker also stressed it was important to preserve this farmland for food production. “Food is of the land, we are the food we eat, therefore we are of the land,” he said. “The circle of our existence on this planet completes itself most intimately and most obviously through food. And herein lies the fundamental value of the land, and of farmland in particular.”  He added that defending our farmland “is not only noble, but fundamentally necessary.”

We’re Feeding the World

Steve Peters, Alliance of Ontario Food Processors

Steve Peters, Alliance of Ontario Food Processors

The importance of prime farmland was echoed in the comments made by Steve Peters, the Executive Director of the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors. Our rare soil is one of the main ingredients of the province’s vital agri-food sector which employs 700,000 people. Peters told the audience Ontario processes 40 percent of the food processed in Canada, adding that our food and water resources have a great reputation. “We’re not just feeding ourselves,” he said. “We’re feeding the world.” He also warned that our desire for cheap imported food hurts our local food producers. “We must be more conscious of where our food comes from.”

Keep Farmers Profitable

Bonnefield's Tom Eisenhauer addressing the F&WF meeting

Bonnefield’s Tom Eisenhauer addressing the F&WF meeting

The final speaker was, perhaps, the most anticipated. Tom Eisenhauer of Bonnefield Financial outlined what is happening on the 6,500-acres of Class 1 farmland once owned by the Highland Companies and slated to become the Mega Quarry. The crowd cheered when he announced that Highland is no longer a tenant, marking the end of a difficult chapter in the community’s recent history. As for the fields, Eisenhauer explained that six farmers are leasing the bulk of the farmland; some smaller acreages and houses have been sold; three existing houses will have to be demolished because of the condition they were left in by Highland; other homes are being rebuilt; and all of the investors in Bonnefield are Canadian with no interest in aggregate or wind turbines.

Eisenhauer admitted that he could not guarantee the land will be farmed forever, but added the best way to keep the land in food production was to “keep farmers profitable.” He also emphasized that “farming should be discussed as economic policy, not social policy.”

Our thanks to MC Dale Goldhawk for leading a lively and informative discussion, our many Partners who attended, the volunteers who made the event possible and all those who braved a stormy Saturday morning to learn more about the land that feeds us.

 

Fairlawnstock: New supporters!

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The Fairlawn Neighbourhood Centre in North Toronto welcomed the Food & Water First campaign with Sweet Potato Creemore Chili, fresh bread and great conversations about protecting Ontario’s prime farmland and water resources. Fairlawnstock was inspired by Foodstock and Soupstock, the culinary celebrations of this province’s agricultural land that helped stop the Highland Mega Quarry. Those who attended Fairlawnstock even brought their own soup bowls!

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NDACT’s Carl Cosack told the large gathering about the need for city dwellers to connect with the rare farmland that provides healthy local food, and to press our politicians to take action. Thanks to Naomi Schafler of the Fairlawn Neighbourhood Centre, Michelle Sparrow of the Fairlawn Avenue United Church, Aroma Espresso and the volunteers for a successful evening.

P.S. The Fairlawn Neighbourhood Centre is now a Food & Water First Community Centre!

Big Campaign on Campus!

New Food & Water First supporters!

New Food & Water First supporters!

Food & Water First was at the front of the class at George Brown College in downtown Toronto the week of March 17-21. We were invited to speak to five classes of students enrolled in the Community Worker program. Thanks for the warm welcome and enthusiastic engagement!  Remember to complete your assignment, students: Take the PLEDGE to protect Ontario’s farmland and water!

Global National – Save Midhurst

A vigorous campaign by one of our Partners, the Midhurst Ratepayers’ Association, to save a swath of prime farmland from development was covered by Global TV news on Thursday, March 20th. The Save Midhurst battle was joined recently by Canadian author Margaret Atwood who has promised to visit the community near Barrie should 5,000 people sign an on-line petition to preserve the farmland. You can watch the Global National item here. It airs at the 17-minute mark.

Global National – Save Midhurst campaign

ARA: A Chance to Go Beyond

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The Ontario government has tabled its response to the review of the Aggregate Resources Act and there is some encouraging news within the document’s pages. Last fall, there was widespread disappointment in the report issued by the Standing Committee on General Government following its 2012 public hearings into the outdated and flawed legislation. Despite the excellent recommendations from a long list of agricultural stakeholders to protect Ontario’s rarest agricultural soils and source water regions from aggregate operations, the Committee ignored those suggestions. Instead it focused on the sketchy scenario of rehabilitating pits and quarries to agriculture after extraction. Once again, it appeared aggregate had trumped agriculture.

The Ontario government has now responded to the Committee’s report and there is a glimmer of hope, a sign that our concerns are being heard. Here is a section of the government’s response referring to agriculture. It raises doubts about whether the all-party Committee went far enough.
“On the matter of aggregate extraction on prime agricultural lands, the government believes that there may be a need to go beyond the Committee’s recommendations to address concerns expressed by some of our agricultural stakeholders and through various public interest groups, about the need to better protect farmland.” 

Local Food Connects Us to the Land

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Food & Water First is the cover story of the latest issue of Horizon Travel & Lifestyle magazine! It features a touching and powerful essay by environmentalist David Suzuki. He reminds us that we must protect our most “precious assets – food and water – ahead of short-term economic gain.”

Horizon Travel article