Farmland provides us with food, fuel, fibre, flowers, and more, and every Ontarian relies on it in one way or another. Even so, we lose over a thousand acres of farmland every week to non-agricultural development like urban sprawl and aggregate extraction. This rate of loss is unsustainable and will impact future generations.
With over 200 different agricultural commodities being produced right here in Ontario, our provincial agricultural sector is diverse. The farmland that supports this sector is as diverse as the sector itself!
Did you know that Ontario’s farmland has been sorted into classes that show how capable it is of supporting agriculture? The surveys that created this classification system provide valuable data about the land, they don’t tell the whole story. While soils that fall into higher-ranked classes are typically better at producing traditional row crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) and horticulture, the soils that fall into lower-ranked classes are still a highly valuable agricultural resource capable of supporting a large variety of agricultural activities, including but not limited to tender fruit and livestock production.
In fact, sometimes the farmland that falls into the lower-ranked classes will actually have just the characteristics that a certain crop may need to flourish! For instance, some tender fruit crops like peaches or cherries do very well on coarser soils that may be considered poor for the production of typical row crops. Unfortunately, this can mean that those farmlands might not receive as much protection in land use planning policies as farmland that traditional crops typically thrive on.
All of our agricultural land is worthy of protection, no matter the soil class it falls into.
Additionally, farmlands can also provide a range of ecosystem services. Farmlands can filter and store water, mitigate the effects of floods, sequester carbon, and even provide habitat for wildlife. Some species at risk, like the Bobolink, actually depend on farmlands for habitat! They can often be found nesting and foraging in pastures and hayfields, which are both agricultural practices that farmland of lower-ranked classes can be well-suited for. When farmlands are protected, so are entire ecosystems!
Ontario also has an innovative agricultural sector that is constantly evolving. Farmers continue to produce new crops and develop management techniques to adapt to changing opportunities. It is possible that land that may not be considered ‘good’ for agriculture now may be well-suited for different crops in the future.
To learn more about the value of all soil classes, check out our new video and fact sheet.