Ontario’s farmland is a finite and non-renewable resource that we cannot afford to lose.

Farmland provides us with food, fuel, fibre, and more, and every Ontarian relies on it in one way or another. Even so, we lose over 175 acres of farmland every day to non-agricultural development like urban sprawl and aggregate extraction1. This rate of loss is unsustainable and will impact future generations.

Did you know that Ontario’s farmland has been sorted into classes regarding how capable it is of supporting agriculture?

Soils in Ontario have been divided up into seven different classes, based on how capable they might be at facilitating agriculture. These limitations are based on the number and severity of limitations that a soil may have. Class 1 farmland has the fewest amount of limitations, whereas Class 7 has the most limitations (Class 7 also includes exposed bedrock and small bodies of water, neither of which are capable of hosting agriculture)2.

The surveys that created this classification system provide us with some very valuable data about the land. However, these soils classes don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

While the soils that fall into these higher classes are typically better at producing traditional row crops (corn, soybeans, wheat), the soils that fall into lower classes (Classes 4-6) are still valuable agricultural resources that are capable of supporting a large variety of agricultural activities.

Ontario’s agricultural sector is incredibly diverse, producing over 200 different commodities on a commercial scale3! It is this diversity that also helps us to maintain a strong and resilient provincial agricultural sector. Many of the crops produced in Ontario have unique preferences when it comes to growing conditions and the type of soil they like. While a soil that falls into a lower soil class (Classes 4-6) may not have the perfect growing conditions for typical row crops, it may actually have the conditions another crop needs to flourish!  

In provincial land use planning policy, most of the protections for farmland focus on protecting soil Classes 1-3. This can leave soils that fall into soil Classes 4-6 vulnerable to non-agricultural development.

Ontario’s agricultural land is as diverse as the range of crops it produces. Having the farmland on which a wide variety of crops can be produced is key to protecting the resilience of our agricultural sector. In order to help ensure the long-term viability of our provincial agricultural sector, we stronger protections for farmland of all soil classes.


Resources

  1. Statistics Canada. 2016. Census of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3210040701&pickMembers%5B0%5D=1.1063&cubeTimeFrame.startYear=2011&cubeTimeFrame.endYear=2016&referencePeriods=20110101%2C20160101
  2. https://sis.agr.gc.ca/cansis/nsdb/cli/index.html
  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/landuse/aed.pdf