The “Not Farmers” who care a great deal about farmland protection
“Oh, we’re not farmers,” David chuckles down the telephone line from his house in Prince Edward County. With wife Louise sitting beside him on loudspeaker, she agrees. “While I do have some farmers in my family tree we both lived our lives and first careers in the big City of Toronto,” she affirms.
David, a Senior Scientist at Sick Kids hospital in Toronto (as well as a Professor at the University of Toronto) and Louise, a High School Teacher in both Toronto and Calgary, knew that they wanted to live in the country when they retired. They looked at various farms in the Niagara region and north of Toronto, but did not find the pastoral setting they imagined in which to spend the next phase of their life.
However, they remembered a time when their children had attended a music camp in Prince Edward County, and how beautiful the area had been. So, David and Louise continued their search there, and found the perfect farm property. They built a house and a few years later moved onto the farm full-time.
After they transitioned from their first careers into life on a farm, David and Louise say they are working just as hard as they ever did, but now it’s for living more sustainably and preserving their farmland for future generations.
Having acquired two adjacent farm properties along the way, they currently have title to over 350 acres spread across three farm properties and in the last five years have begun to regenerate the land.
The first thing a farmer grows, David jokes, is topsoil. They have begun to do this using regenerative agriculture practices, including growing hay and bringing animals back to the land to fertilize it.
Their farm also offers abundant habitat for terrestrial wildlife, as well as seasonal habitat for semi-aquatic wildlife, with woodlots, wetlands and open grassland. Several species-at-risk such as the Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Monarch butterflies and butternut trees can be found on their property.
The communal friendships they have built with neighbours, and the shared knowledge that is passed around is an unexpected blessing to their rural life.
“We are really lucky with the neighbours we have,” Louise said. While David chimed in with his thoughts on how important the community side of farming is. “We really value the opportunity to work with a professional farmer and neighbour who provides advice on what to plant and to develop the long-term vision for our farm. Not only that, but he is also a really good naturalist and can identify all the birds and trees that are on our farm.”
They both agree that the variety of skills and expertise of their neighbours creates a resilient community.
David and Louise first heard about protecting their farm properties through the enthusiasm of neighbours (and now friends) Don and Deb, who at the time were in the process of protecting their farms in Prince Edward County.
David and Louise are concerned that in their county there is a lot of pressure for development. They are, therefore, reassured that “when we’re gone, this will still be farmland.”
The long-term vision for David and Louise’s land is to find young farmers who want to steward the land to take over. “Down the road we’d like to give these young farmers the opportunity to take over our land. It will help them get a foot in the door to start building their own careers as farmers.”