Quarry-Breaking Cowboy

heroes

The Highland Companies’ proposed mega-quarry in Melancthon was backed by a multibillion-dollar US hedge fund and powerful political lobbyists. Its early opponents were just a handful of farmers in a sparsely populated rural township.

It takes a unique person to describe that David and Goliath battle as easy. In fact, Carl Cosack remembers people saying, “This is not a fight. You’ve lost before you started.” But he never saw it that way. “I’m a Sagittarian and they say Sagittarians are just ultimately really positive people.”

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The Case of the Disappearing Farmland

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Farm meets city, Rob O'Flanagan, Mercury staff
Houses along the new subdivision on Davis Street on the east side of Guelph are seen from a 26-hectare clover field. There use to be a farm where the houses now stand.

 

 

GUELPH — Hectic residential and commercial development on the perimeter of Guelph in recent years has dug up, paved over and built up hundreds of hectares of good farmland.

Along Arkell Road, some of those agricultural hectares are currently being scraped away by backhoes and excavators to make room for the new homes that have been sprouting up and advancing toward the city's boundaries over the past decade or so.

Those sprawling homes have pushed to the city limits along Davis Street east of Watson Parkway North, where a steel fence serves as a demarcation line between city and farm.

"That all used to be a farm," said Attilio Odorico, who bought his 37-hectare agricultural property nearly 20 years ago — back when there were a number of farms immediately to the west. Where crops, pastures, meadows, barns and chicken coops once stood, now there are tightly packed rows of large houses, all in the same drab earthen tones.

"I would definitely like to see farmland protected around here," said Odorico, 76, a retired construction worker. Immediately east of his land, which he leases to a local grower, there is nothing but farms and acreages. To the west, there is nothing but urban sprawl. Where new streets like Acker, Linke, Maude, Severn and Couling are once stood good, growing fields.

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County supports Food & Water

Following a presentation by Shirley Boxem, Dufferin County Council last Thursday moved to support the Food & Water First Campaign, an initiative of North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce (NDACT).

NDACT was formed a few years ago in opposition to a mega-quarry on 2,400 acres of prime farmland in Melancthon and placed the source water of four river systems in peril.

It launched Food & Water First in the hope that a Legislature committee’s review of Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act would lead to stronger protection of farmland and source water than is given in the present Act and Provincial Policy Statement.

NDACT believes the review has failed in that respect. Ms. Boxem, in presentations to the council and, earlier, at Shelburne has stated in effect that the campaign is not opposed to aggregate extraction but only what is viewed as a provincial preference to aggregates over agriculture.

Although the mega-quarry application was withdrawn in the wake of strong public opposition, “there is nothing to prevent a new application (being made),” she said.

The council’s approved motion by deputy mayors Darren White of Melancthon and Walter Kolodziechuk of Amaranth reads: Whereas only 5% of Ontario’s land is suitable for farming; and whereas only half of one per cent of Canada’s soil is Class 1; and whereas Ontario, with over 56% of Canada’s Class 1 land has lost, in the two decades between 1976 and 1996, 18% of its Class 1 land; and whereas prime farmland is a non-renewable finite resource; therefore be it resolved that the County of Dufferin endorse the Food & Water First campaign.

In other land use issues, the council approved a motion by Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill and Mono Deputy Mayor Ken McGhee to “declare the entire County to be an ‘Unwilling Host’ for any future industrial wind farm development.”

Although the motion notes that the townships of Amaranth, Melancthon and Mulmur had previously declared themselves to be unwilling hosts, the county motion might be largely symbolic as the county itself does not yet have an official plan or any land-use control.

As well, it isn’t clear where the province stands on renewable energy approvals in unwilling host municipalities. The stated policy appears to be only that preference would be given to projects within “willing host municipalities,” as was the apparent case with the recent, major Samsung approval in Haldimand County.

Also with respect to farming issues, the council approved the suggested predator control bylaw.

The bylaw would permit hunting or trapping of, primarily, coyotes (or coywolves) following a livestock kill but only within a restricted area and for a limited period of time.

A Dufferin Federation of Agriculture delegation pointed out that the aim of predator control is not to exterminate coyotes but only to apply a lethal method of control where all other means have failed.

By Wes Keller
Published in the Orangeville Citizen, Nov. 21, 2013

NDACT not impressed by ARA report

The North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce board is meeting this week to discuss what measures, if any, it can take to counter what it views as glaring omissions and the weak language of the Aggregate Resources Act review recommendations.

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Ontario must put farmland first (editorial)

Our provincial government has missed an opportunity to protect a vital part of Ontario’s economy.

The recently tabled review of the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) fails to put any importance on protecting agricultural land of any class.

However, the province’s agriculture industry contributes about $34 billion to the economy and supports more than 740,000 jobs across Ontario.

Farmer Brent Preston explained the financial value in farmland best during the ARA review committee’s stop in Orangeville.

“I only produce eight or 10 tonnes of salad a year on my farm, but I can produce salad in perpetuity,” Preston said. “You can only mine a tonne of gravel once.”

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