Put farmland first to preserve province’s productivity (2013)

Only 5% of Ontario’s land base is suitable for agriculture. And since we have no way to make more soil, we need to hold on to all the productive land and soil we have.


Successful activists inspire Pickering airport opponents

Land Over Landings working to broaden support


PICKERING -- Carl Cosack knows what it's like to be David fighting Goliath. And he knows what it's like to win.

He recently headed up a citizens’ coalition that successfully stopped a massive limestone quarry from being built on prime farmland in Melancthon Township.

"We were very fortunate to be able to change the conversation ... instead of fighting against something, we were fighting for something," says Mr. Cosack, chairman of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce.

On Oct. 22, he brought that success story to the Claremont Community Centre for an event hosted by Land over Landings, a group opposed to plans for an airport in Pickering.

More than 150 people showed up, eager to hear how a tiny township took on a big corporation.

Mr. Cosack's advice? Come armed with solutions, not complaints. And make the goal something everyone can get on board with.

"In this case, your ask is very simple -- take class 1 farmland off the table for development of any kind," he said. "It costs the government nothing and it will strengthen the community. It's a win-win."
 Land Over Landings has reignited a four-decade struggle after a June 11 announcement that saw the federal government renew its commitment to build a new international airport in Pickering.

The group's argument focuses on the need to protect prime farmland.

Members envision the federal lands being declared an agricultural and natural heritage preserve, a source of everything from meat and vegetables, to field crops and wool.

The last few months have seen Land Over Landings put out a call for volunteers, host community information meetings and take politicians and supporters on a bus tour of the lands.

"So far we have tremendous support from a number of groups, our next step is to keep building that momentum," says chairwoman Mary Delaney. "We need people to know this is not just a local issue .. .we want to garner support from all over and from all levels of government."

Shirley Boxem, vice-chairwoman of NDACT, said it will take time for Land Over Landings to take root with its new look and feel, but believes the group can "absolutely" achieve the same results that quarry opponents did.

"I had members of my own family tell me I was wasting my time, that money always trumps community interests," she said. "But slowly we got that support. I would drive down the same old street and suddenly see a new person had a lawn sign. That can happen here too."

Land Over Landings still needs donations and volunteers, in particular a volunteer co-ordinator.

For more information, visit www.landoverlandings.com.

By Jillian Follert

Published on the Durham Region website, Oct.24, 2013

Rachel McAdams Stars in "People for Food and Water"

You're invited to watch the premiere of the new Food & Water First videos! 

They're just over one minute in length and feature some familiar faces from the fields to the big screen.

Thanks to Jason Van Bruggen for producing these lovely and informative videos. And thanks to Carl Cosack, Dave Vander Zaag, Brent Preston, Michael Stadtlander and Rachel McAdams for defending the land that feeds us! Please share these with family and friends.


mcadamsPeople for Food & Water:  http://vimeo.com/77280156




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Why Food & Water Must Come First: http://vimeo.com/77293457



Photos by Jason Van Bruggen.

Schreiner issues challenge to party leaders: Sign the Food and Water First pledge

West Perth, ON: It’s time to put food and water first, says Mike Schreiner, Green Party of Ontario leader.

Schreiner, attending the International Plowing Match, has challenged Kathleen Wynne, Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath to step up and commit to protecting prime farmland and source water in Ontario.

“We can’t eat subdivisions, quarries, highways or pipelines,” says Schreiner. “Yet prime farmland is disappearing at a rate of 350 acres per day. This is unsustainable - it threatens our health, local food security, and our economy. The province needs to protect prime farmland before it’s too late.”

Schreiner is the only provincial party leader to sign The Food & Water First Pledge to protect prime farmland and source water. The Food & Water First campaign is a citizen led effort inspired by the anti-mega quarry campaign. The goal is to have provincial law changed so that Class 1 farmland -- the most fertile land -- is protected in Ontario.

Only 5 per cent of Ontario’s land mass is suitable for growing food and even less -- just 0.5% -- is prime farmland. Tragically, while the local food movement becomes more popular, the rate of farmland loss is actually increasing. From 2001 to 2006, the province lost about 197,000 acres, or about 100 acres per day. From 2006-2011 farmland loss increased to 641,980 acres or around 130,000 acres per year. This is an annual loss of farmland equal to the size of Toronto.

Losing farmland not only threatens our ability to feed ourselves, it also jeopardizes our economy, The food and farming sector employs more than 700,000 people and contributes more than $30 billion to Ontario's economy. Yet Wynne, Hudak and Howarth are missing in action when it comes to protecting this critical resource.

“I challenge all political parties to protect Ontario’s prime farmland and water resources by signing the Food and Water First pledge,” says Schreiner. “We need to protect these resources today, so that our kids can continue to eat fresh local food years from now.”

Posted on the Northumberland View website, Sep. 17, 2013

Agriculture critic hosts local talks on Local Food Act

















JOYCE CASSIN Northumberland Today Northumberland Quinte West MPP Rob Milligan, left, hosted a roundtable discussion on the Local Food Act with PC Agriculture Critic and Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman on Monday.


When the provincial legislature reconvenes in the fall, Progressive Conservative agriculture critic Ernie Hardeman hopes to have some local food issues on the table.

His goal is to host a series of roundtable discussions with local farmers. The ninth such discussion took place yesterday in Northumberland, Hardeman said, and he expects there will be several more — and at the end of the day, he hopes to get the consumption of local foods up and imported foods on a decline.

“We are getting feedback from local farmers and producers to see what we can do to strengthen and address the Local Food Act,” Hardeman said after Monday’s roundtable discussion, held in Cobourg on Monday. “We feel the Act doesn’t go far enough to promote local foods.”

He said that the number-one issue he’s heard so far is the lack of education — that more education is required.

“We want to mandate food literacy as part of the curriculum in our schools,” Hardeman said. “Every roundtable in the province has discussed better education to understand food.”

The Food Act encourages people to eat the best (local) food in the world, and Hardeman said he agrees with Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne, although he feels people should be more than encouraged, and that more must be done.

The PCs hope to bring more to the Act, to preserve the lands and protect the environment, he said.

“The Minister is quite receptive to suggestions, and some things make perfect sense,” he said.

Hardeman also wants the Income Tax Act changed to help farmers when they are unable to sell their food crops — as in providing a tax break to cover the cost of transporting foods to a local food bank.

“The farmer wouldn’t get any money, but he’d get rid of his crops and the people of the food bank would benefit,” he said.

One of the Tories’ concerns is that there are no targets set, but the Minister has to report on the progress every three years.

“The Minister could say they were 110% successful, and not accomplish a thing (if there aren’t any targets),” he said.

Northumberland County director of economic development and tourism Dan Borowec said the government should take a better look at what is meant by “local” foods.

Currently the definition of ‘local food’ is food that is grown / produced in Ontario.

The Local Food Act is good for Northumberland, said Borowec.

“The intent is very much in line with our proposed niche processing facility,” Borowec said.

Plans to build an agriculture / food incubator in Cramahe Township’s industrial park will help make Northumberland foods available to not only the immediate vicinity, but to areas across the province, he said.

“There’s lots of potential,” he said.

Part of the plan is to label foods processed at the facility that will direct purchasers to the local producer’s website.

“The packaging will identify the source, and it’ll be a big benefit to local farmers,” Borowec said. “This gives the consumer the ability to check the food source and choose who they wish to buy from.”

And farmers and producers such as micro-breweries may have the option to use this niche processing facility soon.

“I’m hopeful the shovel will be in the ground within the next few weeks,” Borowec said.

By Joyce Cassin

Published in Northumberland Today, July 22, 2013