The 2023 Farmland Forum on Thursday, March 23rd was held both in person as well as online for our first ever hybrid forum. This was Ontario Farmland Trust’s 18th annual forum, and we were beyond excited to welcome 100 people in person to the Grand in Guelph, as well as around 100 registrants online from across the province, country, and even across the ocean.

The theme for this year’s Forum was Planning to Save the Soil. Presentations throughout the day discussed the complexity of soil microorganisms and processes, the myriad of soil health friendly farming practices, the many benefits soil offers beyond food production, and some innovative ideas in working to protect Ontario’s soils. Martin Straathof, Executive Director of the Ontario Farmland Trust, acted as MC for the day, ensuring that we stayed on schedule throughout the entire event, as well as offering reflections on the content and an afternoon briefing on the work of OFT.

The Hon. Rob Black, Senator (ON) and Chair of the Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee, opened the forum.

Our first keynote speaker was Dr. Kari Dunfield, Professor at the University of Guelph and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology of Agro-Ecosystems.

We were excited to welcome the first panel to the table in a discussion on Right to Soil, Reimagining Complete Communities. Unfortunately, facilitator Dr. Karen Landman and panelist Utcha Sawyers were unable to join due to illness. Panelist Dr. Sara Epp, Assistant Professor at the University Guelph, graciously stepped up to lead the panel. With the theme of innovative planning solutions for soil in mind, we welcomed Emily C Sousa, planner for Brant County and Kevin Eisses, farmer and councillor for the Town of Innisfil.

After lunch, we were equally as excited to welcome our second panel to the table in a discussion on Nourishing the Land. This panel included a diverse array of farmers who prioritize building soil health as a foundation of their farming practices. Katrina McQuail, of Meeting Place Organic Farm, Dan Breen of Breen Acres, Brenda Hsueh of Black Sheep Farm, and Jacqueline Dwyer of Toronto Black Farmers Collective were expertly and humorously facilitated by Mel Luymes, ag-enviro-solutions consultant.

Our closing keynote speaker, Celeste Smith, Founder & Owner of Cultural Seeds Consulting, couldn’t have wrapped up the day better. Celeste introduced forum attendees to the concepts of Indigenous science, also known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge, leaving attendees pondering our relationship and responsibilities to the land.

Overall, the forum was a great success, and we are most appreciative of the amazing presenters, as well as our volunteers.

Additionally, the event couldn’t have been possible without our generous sponsors, so a big thank you to:

  • Better Farming magazine
  • The Greenbelt Foundation
  • Ontario Federation of Agriculture
  • Canadians for a Sustainable Society
  • Kathy White & Dr. Barry White Orthodontics
  • Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
  • Ecological Farmers Association on Ontario
  • Adam Rumball – IG Wealth Management Consultant
  • Beef Farmers of Ontario
  • Ontario Professional Planners Institute
  • Jackie Rambler – Raymond James Executive Wealth Advisors
  • National Farmers Union – Ontario
  • Pommie’s Cider Co.
  • Riverside Oasis Farm
  • Madawaska Kanu Centre
  • Enviro Stewards
  • Kitchen Table Seed House
  • Royal City Brewing
  • Planet Bean Coffee
  • Wellington Brewery

Lastly, thank you to everyone who attended for bringing your presence and engagement! We hope to see you next year.