The Value of all of Ontario’s Farmland
Date: September 1, 2021
Author: Emma Jane Woods, Farmland Ecology Coordinator at the Ontario Farmland Trust
Farmland provides us with food, fuel, fibre, flowers, and more, and every Ontarian relies on it in one way or another.
Even so, we lose over a thousand acres of farmland every week to non-agricultural development like urban sprawl and aggregate extraction. This rate of loss is unsustainable and will impact future generations.
The Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) brings together farmers, government, and conservation partners to establish farmland easement agreements that permanently protect the agricultural, natural, and cultural features of farm properties. An easement is a voluntary agreement that the landowner and OFT enter together, that will ensure the farmland remains farmland, forever.
Additionally, just half of Ontario’s farmland and natural areas receive protection through provincial policies, and even so, these policies are constantly changing. This is why OFT works with the provincial government to strengthen protections for farmland in provincial policy through regular policy submissions.
Did you know that over 200 agricultural commodities are produced right here in Ontario? Ontario’s agricultural sector is diverse, and Ontario’s agricultural land is as diverse as the range of crops it produces.
Ontario’s farmland has been sorted into classes that show how capable it is of supporting agriculture. The surveys that created this classification system provide valuable data about the land, however, they don’t tell the whole story. While soils that fall into higher-ranked classes are typically better at producing traditional row crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) and horticulture, the soils that fall into lower-ranked classes are still a highly valuable agricultural resource capable of supporting a large variety of agricultural activities, such as tender fruit and livestock production. All of our agricultural land is worthy of protection.
In fact, sometimes the farmland that falls into the lower-ranked classes will actually have just the characteristics that a certain crop may need to flourish! For instance, some tender fruit crops like peaches or cherries actually do well on coarser soils that may be considered poor for the production of typical row crops.
In addition to producing food, fibre, fuel, and flowers, farmlands can also provide a range of ecosystem services. Farmlands can filter and store water, mitigate the effects of floods, sequester carbon, and even provide habitat for wildlife. Some species at risk, like the Bobolink, actually depend on farmlands for habitat, and can often be found nesting and foraging in pastures and hayfields. So, when farmlands are protected, so are entire ecosystems!
Recently Melissa Schneider, Communications and Development Manager for the Ontario Farmland Trust presented to the AALP Class about the value of all of Ontario’s farmland. To watch that presentation, click here! To read more about the value of all of Ontario’s farmland, click here.
To learn more about farmland protection visit www.ontariofarmlandtrust.ca