ARA review, legislation awaited anxiously

On my way to visit Carl Cosack at his Peace Valley Ranch last Monday, I took a few moments to grab a photo of a crumbling barn on the farm where my sister Elsie and her husband, Eric, had toiled and lived from their marriage until their retirement.

I had fond memories of the place and of times I had spent visiting and, from time to time, lending a hand with various tasks.

Eric was both industrious and innovative. He seized onto potatoes at some point when the potato chip industry was fully emerging, especially with the Hostess plant at Cambridge or somewhere, but moved on to beef, then sold an entire herd and moved on to dairy.

He and my sister prospered – the two large silos and remains of a milk house at the old farm are evidence of that – but Eric spent too much time under the sun cultivating the fields, got skin cancer that spread, and he succumbed a few years after retirement.

The new owners of the farm took a different approach to agriculture. I know nothing about their history, but the residence, an imposing two-storey century brick house, was occupied by tenants when it burned to the ground a few years ago.

This column is not meant to be about my relatives or about their farm, except to the extent to state that everything they accomplished was dependent upon the fertility of the land, no matter how one might view their ability to care for it.

My reason for being up in the area was to discuss, among other things, the progress of NDACT’s Food and Water First campaign.

The visit was timely, as the campaign has to do with the preservation of fertile, Class 1 and better, farmland plus the source of water that not only keeps the fields fertile but is essential to the health of a growing population. You need both the land and the water to grow food.

The campaign, which, according to Carl, has involved the placing of thousands of signs, coincides more or less with the imminent release of the all-party committee report on the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) review. Carl says he believes the report will be fair. But he admits that the next hurdle will be getting the required changes passed into law. NDACT has been meeting with MPPs and with ministers and ministry officials, and getting good responses, Carl says, yet one must be a realist and keep in mind that professional lobbyists for the multi-billiondollar aggregate industry must also be active.

NDACT was founded to combat the threat of a huge open-pit limestone quarry that would have excavated a couple of thousand acres and gone deeper than anyone would have expected.

NDACT was not lulled to sleep by the withdrawal of the application for the quarry. The association has continued to work and watch, and Food and Water First is another step in its awareness efforts.

Engineer Garry Hunter, you will recall, identified numerous underground streams in the area that would have been mined. Photographer Donna Wells snapped the above-ground streams and rivers fed by those underground.

NDACT’s various campaigns, supported by events such as Foodstock, for which a host of chefs deserve credit, have been responsible for the protection of those essential streams along with the area’s special crops acreages.

Now, unless the critical ARA changes along with a revision of the Provincial Policy Statement with respect to farmland, happen, the quarry application might well be renewed and possibly approved.

Proponent Highland Companies has so far made no moves that would indicate its intention to revive the application but, instead, has advanced its farming operations and remained as a positive community presence.

Let us hope that the ARA changes get past the legislature so that the land and the water in the area under discussion remain as they are.

 

By Wes Keller

Published in the "Orangeville Banner", May 30, 2013