Ontario farmers put food and water first (2013)

By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA)

Ontario farmers produce the most diverse range of food in Canada, growing more than 200 different crops including grains, fruits and vegetables. But despite this diversity, a mere 5% of the province’s land base is suitable for agriculture. And of that, only a small proportion includes Class 1, 2, 3 or 4 soils.

Productive land is a farmer’s most important resource. Clean water is a close second. These two valuable resources must be preserved. That’s why the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recently signed a pledge to protect Ontario’s productive farmland and our water resources, and to make every effort to preserve the land and water that will sustain us now and for future generations. The pledge is an initiative of a new Ontario organization called Food and Water First.

Food and Water First is a grassroots movement dedicated to protecting Class 1 farmland and source water regions. While we agree with this intention, OFA feels it important to go further to defend farmland Classes 1 through 4. The group is made up of rural and urban citizens who value Ontario’s agricultural soils and water resources, and the need for preservation. Together, organization partners encourage the Ontario government to adopt a “food and water first” policy so the agricultural sector and source water regions are given priority in land-use planning.

Ontario farmers do their part every day to keep land and water safe. The majority of Ontario farmers employ tailor-made agronomic strategies through Environmental Farm Plans to ensure farmer-owned properties remain productive and environmentally sustainable for generations to come. Practices such as no-till planting, managing waste run-off and keeping on-farm waterways clean are common sense solutions on the farm.

In recent months, the OFA has been vocal on issues about water and farmland preservation. OFA fervently believes that all Ontarians benefit from the economic and environmental benefits productive land and water bring to our province. OFA has a proud history of working with like-minded organizations on research, education and policy development to further strengthen and protect Ontario farmland.

Concern for land and water comes naturally to farmers, because these resources are integral to our livelihood. The OFA applauds grassroots organizations that encourage citizens – both rural and urban – to take a stand by recognizing the value these resources hold for everyone. Ontario farmers encourage a “food and water first” policy approach, and the OFA looks forward to working with like-minded organizations to see it implemented. 

For more information contact:

Mark Wales
Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture


Bob Almack says on August 9, 2013 at 6:55 PM

Congratulations to the OFA for supporting the Food and Water First Initiative. But if the OFA is to have any credibility on the food land preservation issue, it must publicly condemn the use of 14 000 acres of public owned class 1 food land for the Pickering (Mirabel 2) airport. Like Mirabel (which is now all but closed) this will be a staggering waste of billions of taxpayer dollars. In stead ballooning the debt the Harper Government should give long term leases to our young agricultural college grads who want to farm. What Toronto needs is another St Jacob's like farmers market on its doorstep, not an expensive white elephant. Do we want to generate wealth and permanent agribusiness jobs, or deficits and debt? If the OFA is serious about food land protection, it must advocate protecting this 14000 acres of food land for young farmers. The best use of class 1 farmland is farming.

Carl Cosack says on August 9, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Well written Mark Wales, thank you so very much. With the help of 37ooo Farm Families, we can do a lot of god in preserving farmland and source Water Regions for generations to come. Thank you again, Carl Cosack 978700

Art and Sharon Alliet says on August 11, 2013 at 12:45 PM

As a concerned Chatham Kent Farmers we feel that woodlots should also play an important role in this strategy. Trees are very important to our environment. Put simply they clean the water, manage soil erosion, and as you say "keep our land and water safe."

Sandra Spencer says on August 12, 2013 at 9:05 PM

I applaud all the work that you have done to preserve our precious water and farmland. We must all keep fighting to make sure that the people and not the aggregate industry have the final word re: our farmland. There must be strict controls imposed on this industry to keep them from desecrating our land and ruining it for future generations. Food and water first!

Mary Delaney says on August 13, 2013 at 7:51 AM

Thank you Mark Wales and the OFA. We welcome your support of Food and Water First initiatives, including the protection of the vast acreage of Class 1 soils in North Pickering, expropriated in 1972 for an airport. The federal government has renewed its plan to industrialize these lands, which could and should be the garden of Toronto. This is the largest tract of prime foodland remaining in southern Ontario, and it is in public hands, needing only political will to make it happen. And that political will only come when the people -- and organizations like the OFA -- rise up to demand it. Congrats to the people who stopped the quarry -- now it's time to stop the airport! Mary Delaney Chair, Land Over Landings

Ontario Federation of Agriculture says on August 13, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Thank you all for the positive feedback. We appreciate your support on this issue and will continue to advocate and work towards implementing the Food and Water First initiative into a "food and water first" policy.

joe fischer says on August 14, 2013 at 9:02 PM

since only 5 percent of our land base is suitable for food production why are we sitting back and allowing the provincial government to allow all these wind turbines to be out on prime food productive it because the money generated from these turbines is considered free,if this the thought think again nothing is free, in the future when the maintaince exceeds the profit these companies could walk away from the lease and leave the property owner with the clean up cost and prime food productive land wasted,which means higher food prices the sooner we get to this problem the better.

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