This month, we’re sharing the story of one of our longtime volunteers and past staff, Matthew Colley. Our staff member Tamara met up with him over Zoom last month to hear about how he first got involved with farmland protection, what he’s most excited for in OFT’s work, and crucially – details on his two dogs and potential future hobby farm.

First involved as a staff member in 2016, Matthew alternated between volunteering and working for OFT until being asked to join the Board of Directors in 2020. When he first joined the team, Matthew was working on his Masters in Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph. While he does not have a background in agriculture, it was actually agriculture that inspired Matthew to pursue the planning field in the first place.

Growing up in Newmarket, he saw first hand the vast changes to land use and planning that have been occurring across Ontario. Farmland that was a short five minute walk from his home growing up disappeared, slowly paved over with development. In university, he wanted to learn the layers that go into those decisions. How can farmland protection be balanced with other societal needs?

Now a Development Planner for the Region of Waterloo, he needs to look through all lenses and perspectives. Being on the Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the Policy & Education Committee with OFT gives him the opportunity to put on the protection lens in particular, bringing in his knowledge of policy and planning and his passion for farmland protection to OFT’s work.

Lady and Ireland relaxing in the sunshine

Outside of planning and farmland protection work, Matthew enjoys running, walking and hiking. He has recently moved to a small community outside Kitchener with his wife and dogs. Like many dogs, his pointer and german shepherd boxer mix have much enjoyed the shift to work from home life. His wife would love to have a hobby farm with a few animals in the future so stay tuned. Perhaps our update in another few years will include a menagerie of horses, goats or sheep!

Matthew has seen OFT go through an immense amount of growth since he first became involved seven years ago. Such growth includes the increased speed of farmland easements being completed, more involvement in policy such as Bill 23 and Bill 39, increased collaboration, and more diversity and breadth in OFT’s work. He finds this growth quite exciting, and is so happy to be involved with it all.