Decades ago it was decided that three farms in Tiny Township, Ontario were to be turned into a landfill. Three farms that have some of the best agricultural land and lie above the purest water in the area.
When, in 2011, construction of the landfill began, there was significant community backlash. The community fought against the creation of the landfill on these farms, and luckily, the County was convinced.
The County of Simcoe decided to partner with Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) to put farmland conservation easements on all three farms to ensure that they would remain in the County’s agricultural land base forever. A partnership as such between a county and a land trust to preserve farmland was the first of its kind in Ontario, and it was spurred largely by the efforts of the public.
“The effort from the public to save Site 41 is a story to be told!” says one of the current owners of the farms, Tony.
These efforts started with protests by local farmers and community members who were worried about the risks landfills could pose to their land and water supply. However the movement quickly gained momentum and was endorsed by environmental advocacy groups, First Nations, and politicians. Even David Suzuki spoke out about the proposed plans for Site 41 before the County stopped the project.
Since the decommissioning of the landfill project the farms have been returned to agricultural production and the farms have fallen out of the limelight. One of them is currently farmed by Tony, a lifelong farmer. Tony owns the farm that has some of the initial landfill construction on it, including dykes and gravel parking pads.
Tony’s involvement in agriculture goes back to the beginning of his life. “I guess you could say I was born into it. My life of farming started the day I was born.” says Tony. Tony bought his first farm in 1987 and has since done both dairy and cash crop. Tony bought his parcel of Site 41 in 2011, right after the easements had been put on. For him, the timing was perfect. He had just sold his dairy herd and was looking to expand his cropping operation.
He admits, getting Site 41 back to good agricultural production has been a long, hard process. He has had to undertake serious restoration efforts on some parts of his farm. Even with his efforts, there are areas of his farm that can never be returned to agricultural production.
The land that is back in agricultural production is doing well, an indication of just how valuable this farmland is.
“Once the combine started to harvest, the grain tank filled up quickly.” stated Tony.
“Farmland is not replaceable” stressed Tony. A point which is illustrated perfectly by Site 41 itself. Though some of the land was able to rebound back to agricultural production, most of the altered land was lost. Thankfully, no matter what happens in the future, the farmland conservation easements on the land will ensure that the Site 41 farms remain farmland forever.