shields-artwork-webFood & Water First is the legacy of the Stop the Mega Quarry campaign that began in Dufferin County northwest of Toronto in 2006. The Highland Companies – a front company for a $27-billion Boston hedge fund – bought 6,500-acres of Class 1 farmland and stated it wanted to become the largest potato producer in Ontario. But, in 2011, it filed an application for the largest quarry in Canadian history on the best soil in the province and at the headwaters of five river systems. The Mega Quarry would have spanned 2,300-acres and plunged 200-feet below the water table. It would have destroyed rare food-producing land and impacted water resources for up to one million people downstream.

Farmers, chefs, First Nations, city-dwellers, environmentalists and artists formed a remarkable alliance. Culinary protests were held to raise awareness about the vital farmland and water resources at risk. Foodstock in Dufferin County 2011 (28,000 people), Soupstock in Toronto 2012 (40,000 people).  In November 2012, one month after Soupstock, Highland withdrew its mega quarry application. Then, in July 2013, a Canadian investment firm, Bonnefield Financial, purchased all 6,500-acres from Highland. It has leased the land to local farmers ensuring the fields remain in food production.

However, the campaign for farmland and water protection continues. The Mega Quarry fight exposed many flaws in current land-use policies. Ontario’s prime farmland and source water regions remain vulnerable to sprawl and aggregate operations even though they’re critical to our food security and Ontario’s $34-billion agri-food sector, the largest in Canada. We believe our prime farmland and water should be protected in perpetuity, not threatened or squandered in perpetuity. We believe it’s time to put Food & Water First.

Food & Water First is a committee of NDACT (North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce).