2020 was a year like no other, and like everyone else, OFT had to make some changes in order to adapt. Thankfully, we were able to adjust so that we were able to continue our work from home, and on socially distanced outdoor site visits. Thanks to the support of generous individuals like you, 2020 was still a great year for farmland conservation.
At the beginning of 2020, OFT partnered with the National Farmers’ Union – Ontario (NFU-O) to host a series of workshops with the aim of helping farmers with succession planning. Succession planning is important for farmland conservation because it ensures that the farmland will be passed from one farmer to another, rather than being bought for non-agricultural development. In total, these workshops had 115 attendees in five different areas of the province. If you would like to learn more about how succession planning can help protect farmland, click here. To learn about how our farmland easement agreements can help with succession planning, click here.
We are also excited to announce that we protected an additional 210 acres of farmland and natural habitat in 2020! These farms are located in Prince Edward County, and are part of a sixth-generation farming operation. The landowners grow organic heritage grains like rye, red fife wheat, and buckwheat, which are then sold to a bakery in Toronto, helping support a strong provincial food system. Not only is this farm home to valuable farmland, but it is also a haven for species at risk. Butternut, Eastern Wood-pewees, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlarks, and more have all been observed on the land. The landowners are excited that their farms are now protected forever, as they have been threatened by development in the past.
2020 also saw OFT take on our largest farmland protection project ever! We are currently working on protecting two farms that total over 600 acres in Bruce County. These farms are made up of productive Class 1 and 2 soils that produce cattle, sheep, row crops, potatoes, hay, and honey. These farms are home to species at risk, including Butternut and Monarch, and the natural areas on these farms provide important ecological services for the surrounding community, such as water filtration and erosion control. The landowners are passionate about protecting their farmland, as they have witnessed neighbouring farmland as close as 500 meters away from their farms being turned into housing developments and golf courses. These easements will also be the first OFT easements in Bruce County.
2020 also brought a record number of inquiries from landowners interested in protecting their farmland with OFT. In fact, in 2020 OFT received twice the number of easement inquiries than in 2019. If 2020 has shown us anything, it is the importance of a strong local food system, something that we cannot have without farmland. We are excited to start working with more landowners in 2021 to protect their land, so that Ontarians will always have farmland and a strong local food system.
In 2020, we also had an amazing Farmland Forum planned that, unfortunately, was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are excited to announce that this year our annual Farmland Forum will be virtual! We will be delivering a lot of the great content that we had planned for last year, and more. So, stay tuned because we will be releasing details about the 2021 Farmland Forum soon!
Farmland conservation would not be possible without you, our generous supporters. We put together a thank you video that was filmed on our protected farms, to show you what you have helped protect. To view that video, click here.