I grew up on a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario and through firsthand experiences I gained an appreciation for agriculture and rural communities. My upbringing taught me the importance of agriculture for family livelihoods, providing a healthy, local food supply chain and contributing to a robust economy.
Farmland plays a critical role in our communities’ resiliency and wellbeing and my love and appreciation for this critical resource only grows with time.
I once thought everyone knew how important local food production is but I’ve noticed that having appreciation isn’t always reflected in our actions.
Development is seen as the priority and preference over farmland, while forgetting that the abundance of food production is what allowed our communities to flourish in the first place. It’s as though farmland is seen as space that is waiting to be developed on. However, farmland and rural areas are just that by choice. It’s not necessarily the desire of every community to shed its agricultural roots and turn into suburbs of larger, neighbouring municipalities.
There are some fascinating community models that are flipping the notion of agriculture’s place in society and the role it plays in supporting sustainable community development.
With the right planning policies and protection of farmland, there could be more opportunities for community members to live and participate in their food production. In essence, more people could gain firsthand experiences of agriculture in Ontario so that they too might gain an appreciation for food production and the importance of our agricultural soil.
For a long time, I saw my life’s career as continuing to support the development of agricultural systems. The problem is, we need to have farmland to support our agricultural systems, because they will not be able to work without it. Let’s look to farmland as a resource that can make the people’s lives better, healthier and connect them with a lifestyle that is compatible with the changing realities of the 21st century.
Working to protect farmland has shown me that the possibilities are there – another lesson learned and another reason why I will continue to love farmland forever!