Mobile signs spread the seeds of change


The North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) harvests growing awareness by spreading the seeds of change with simple lawn signs. In recent years, the familiar red and white NDACT signs have sprung up from lawns across the country with a clear and vital message to put “Food and Water First.” This spring, the organization that stopped the mega quarry is taking that message on the road with mobile signs designed to attach to the back of fleet vehicles.

NDACT continues to stress the need for an ongoing, united front on the Food and Water First mandate to protect prime farmland and source water, and now roving signs will give that message even greater visibility. When STOP the MEGA QUARRY SIGNS began appearing throughout the province, citizens and politicians paid attention. Recently, Shirley Boxem, Vice Chair voiced concerns about “keeping this issue at the forefront, as the legislative rules have not changed and the very same mega quarry application could be applied for today.”

The organization reminds supporters that although “Melancthon fields may be secure, Ontario’s prime farmland and source water regions remain vulnerable” to development and corporate exploitation. The current Provincial Policy Statement still mandates the allowance of aggregate extraction on prime agricultural and source water lands putting food and water at risk. According to Stats Canada, between 2001 and 2011, nearly 29 per cent of the most productive farmland between Windsor and Quebec City, almost one million hectares, went out of food production.

Some of the roving signs are already out and moving across the province and country on fleet vehicles, including those of Lennox Farms and Peace Valley Ranch. Former NDACT Chair and owner of Peace Valley Ranch, Carl Cosack says, their trailer will travel all over southern and central Ontario. “The sign is a great way to share our message that class 1 farmland must be protected for future generations to decide if they indeed want to grow their own food or rely on other jurisdictions to feed them. We have the responsibility to afford them that choice. “
Cosack reports that NDACT’s board and the “Food & Water First” campaign hope that other companies, farmers, and their suppliers will carry the 22 by 27 inch signs on their trucks “to show decision makers that we have learned from the mega quarry application and need policy change. “The more signs we get travelling, the more the public will be engaged and support that all important policy change.”

“It is really a no brainer,” says Cosack, “you can hardly pick up a paper these days and not read about water shortages, and loss of soil and farmland. With an ever increasing population globally, as well as right here in Ontario, the job creating economy of agriculture and food is fundamental to our life and prosperity. It is simply rooted in the availability of soil, and we, here in Ontario, are the envy of all of North America for our soil and water riches. It takes nothing to destroy it, and only a little foresight to protect it.”

If you would like to show your support by applying one of NDACT’s roving billboards to a fleet vehicle, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details and tweet a photo if you see a roving @FoodWaterFirst at #FoodAndWaterFirst. Food & Water First Lawn signs are free and available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can drive by 429 First Avenue East, in Shelburne and grab a sign off the lawn, with no appointment necessary.

By Marni Walsh
Published in the Shelburne Free Press May 28, 2015

Water worries prompt Official Plan appeal in Melancthon

Melancthon Township is appealing changes to its Official Plan, after the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing removed items intended as water protection safeguards.

In late March, the municipality learned of numerous changes made to its Official Plan by the ministry and has since filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

While many sections of the town’s plan were tweaked, the area tackling aggregate resource policies returned to Melancthon with numerous alterations.

“We knew going in we were going to have a bit of a fight for some of this stuff,” said Melancthon Mayor Darren White. “Every time we made suggestions our planner told us that wasn’t going to fly. The Provincial Policy Statement basically says aggregate is king.”


There's a downside to feeling special

There is a co-ordinated land review process going on right now with four key land use plans that are simultaneously being reviewed: the Greenbelt, Oak Ridged Moraine Conservation Plan, Greater Horseshoe Growth Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan.

The future of land use in Ontario hinges on the recommendations of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) which will be guided - or at least impacted by feedback from the public. Therein lays the key to how much political will is put behind drafting good land use policy: does it matter to people / voters / consumers?

Read more.

By Shirley Boxem
Published in the Orangeville Banner, April 16, 2015

What's Our Water Risk

The drought that continues to devastate California -- which grows most of the food eaten in the U-S -- should be a lesson for water-rich Canada. That's the powerful argument made in this Globe & Mail column by Dustin Garrick of McMaster University:

"California just announced its lowest Sierra Nevada snowpack in history for this time of year. Unlike a hurricane, which departs as suddenly as it appears, we now have a front row seat for the slow-moving disaster that is drought. We may feel at a safe distance, cradled by the Great Lakes – the world’s largest surface freshwater system – but Canadians are not immune from the impacts of these droughts."

Read the article What the California drought means for Canadians and consider whether we're properly prepared for the looming "water risks."

Water celebrated at Guelph H20 Go Festival

Food & Water First was there!

GUELPH-The taps may be running again in many homes after frozen pipes cut off water for hundreds this winter, but that doesn't mean that Guelph is taking water for granted.

It was feted at the third annual H20 Go festival in downtown Guelph, Saturday, organized by the city and water activist group Wellington Water Watchers.

"Really it's just to make people aware of how precious water is in our community," said organizer Jennifer Gilks, city of Guelph water conservation program coordinator, at a booth in Old Quebec Street mall.

"It's turned out to be a really great event. It's raining but that's a good thing because it's world water day," she said. The event was timed to coincide with both world water day and Canada water week, which runs from March 16 to 22.

The third annual celebration featured a range of activities for kids, including games and face painting, displays from local non-profits centering on educating the public about water, and speakers on water, conservation and sustainability.

"We want people to know that we are on a groundwater-based aquifer so we need to protect and preserve it," Gilks.

"Guelph is one of the few municipalities in all of Canada that gets every drop of our water from the ground," she added.

Gilks said residents may not be aware of ways they can reduce their water usage.

"When we conserve our water we have more for future generations," she said.

"People can do all kinds of things; we have a variety of rebate programs from replacing your washing machine, to your toilet."

Fixing "silent leaks" can also go a long way.

"If your toilet is leaking it can fill a bathtub in a day very easily, and so all that water adds up," Gilks said.

Gilks said the recent frozen pipe problem in the city made many appreciate the resource.

"They realized after what it's like to not have water at all," she said.

Katy Falk, a volunteer with the non-profit Engineers Without Borders, ran a game where kids pretended to be countries around the world and made their own water filtration systems with different amounts of monopoly money.

"The main thing is the amount of money they get is reflective of how rich their country is," said Falk.

The game is designed to show how inequalities in the world impact water access.

"And they get to play in water," she added.

"They get their hands dirty and they get to see dirty water become clean, so that's pretty exciting."

Nearby kids waited patiently in line for face painting. In keeping with the conservationist theme, flower designs were a popular choice.

This year H20 Go partnered with the Guelph Eco-market, hosted by Emerge Guelph, a sustainability non-profit and Transition Guelph, a citizen's group aimed at strengthening community.

"Really anything that touches on energy, including water waste and transportation, we have them come out and hopefully sell some wares, present the programs and really show people where the resources are in Guelph," said Eco-market coordinator Steve Yessie.

Items for sale included "dryer balls" made out of wool to keep clothes from getting tangled and cut down dryer, and therefore electricity, costs.

Yessie said the two events "joined forces" this year because the issues are so interconnected.

"Sustainability is the name of the game," he said.

By May Warren
Punblished in the Guelph Mercury, Mar. 21, 2015