Ontario farmland under threat as demand for housing grows

The sign outside the modest East Gwillimbury bungalow, Howards’ Farm, is a beloved beacon for local residents who make the pilgrimage to this concession road regularly for eggs, beef and pork raised as local as it gets — just a few metres from the front door.

Don Howard, 65, represents the fifth generation to herd livestock and till the fertile soil of the sprawling fields north of Newmarket. He grew up on the family homestead just two kilometres away.

His great-grandfather, Stephen Howard Jr., was the son of one of the first Quaker settlers in the area. Don’s 89-year-old mother still lives in the historic Howard farmhouse, with its original brick bake oven.

But likely not much longer. She sold the property to a developer eight years ago. She and her son have barely spoken since.

Howard and his wife, Deb, are still farming, but on borrowed time. He rents all the 300 acres (121 hectares) he tends near the house he has owned on the 2nd Concession for 40 years.

That farmland is now owned by developers. They are banking that urban sprawl will soon find a new home among the York Region towns and hamlets that form an island, slated for development, right in the heart of Ontario’s 10-year-old protected Greenbelt zone

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