A campaign launched by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is encouraging communities to ‘Grow Up, Not Out.’
The OFA says Ontario is losing 175 acres of farmland a day to urban development — that’s roughly the size of 135 football fields.
The OFA campaign Homegrown is a program to protect and preserve farmland and sustainable food systems in Ontario.
“We have very little land to produce a lot of food to feed a lot of people,” says Crispin Colvin, OFA executive director for the Lambton-Middlesex zone.
Colvin says less than five per cent of Ontario is arable land, much of it in Southwestern Ontario.
He says arable farmland is being lost to urban development at an alarming rate, in major and small urban areas.
“It’s because of way too much development, it is a lot of bad development to grow more houses. There’s that short-sighted economic development little benefit, but it’s very short-sighted. If you can’t feed the people, if you can’t provide sustainable employment, then growing houses is not the answer.”
To preserve land, Colvin is encouraging communities and municipalities to grow up, not out.
“People have to accept the fact that particularly in major urban areas such as London and Windsor, that they need to live in apartments or condominiums. Single-family homes take up a tremendous amount of land, they are wonderful but we are going to have to start looking at growing areas like North Bay, Timmins, Parry Sound, areas that are not arable,’ says Colvin.
“Farmers have done an incredible job in the last 20 years on producing more food on less land, and we have to do the same, produce more housing on less land,” says Elliott.
Colvin says the time to preserve is yesterday — with climate change causing devastation in western Ontario and droughts in the north.
He says his biggest fear is Canada becoming a food importing country, instead of a food exporting country.
Ontario grows more than 200 different commodities, more than any other province in the country.
Colvin says losing land at this rate, the province may not be able to sustain that.
“Southwestern Ontario is a very golden area, if we don’t work to preserve it, to use an analogy, we’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”