2023 Farmland Forum

The 2023 Farmland Forum brought together councillors, mayors, planners, farmers, conservation organizations and more from across Ontario and Canada to discuss the most pressing issues in farmland protection. The theme, Planning to Save the Soil, explored the social, economic, and environmental considerations for protecting the foundation of our farmland and agri-food sector: Ontario’s soil.

See our Forum Recap blog for photos of the event.


9:00 am:
Welcome & Opening Remarks, Martin Straathof, Executive Director, Ontario Farmland Trust
Dignitary Remarks: The Hon. Rob Black, Senator (ON) and Chair of the Senate Agriculture
and Forestry Committee

9:30 am Keynote: Dr. Kari Dunfield: Professor, University of Guelph and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology of Agro-ecosystems
Dr. Kari Dunfield introduced the dynamic and living entity that is soil, exploring the services that soil microbial communities can provide and how those are impacted by agricultural and environmental practices. 

11:00 am Panel 1: Right to Soil: Reimagining Complete Communities
Soil is critical to providing basic necessities for us to live and to thrive. This panel explored the idea of adding agricultural land as a defining feature of complete communities. What could this mean for planning just and sustainable communities? How can planning processes recognize the many services provided by soil, like climate change mitigation, and water filtration?
Kevin Eisses, Farmer & Town of Innisfil Councillor
Dr. Sara Epp, Assistant Professor, University of GuelphStepped in as facilitator
Utcha Sawyers, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of East Scarborough – Unable to attend
Emily C. Sousa, Planner, Brant County, RPP Candidate
Facilitator: Dr. Karen Landman, Professor, University of Guelph, RPPUnable to attend

1:15 pm Ontario Farmland Trust: Project Briefing, Martin Straathof, Executive Director, Ontario Farmland Trust

1:30 pm Panel 2: Nourishing The Land
Ontario farmers play an integral role in building and preserving soil for future generations. This panel invited stewards of soil health from all corners of the agricultural landscape, from larger scale to small scale farmers, from grain croppers to pastured livestock farmers, to discuss ways they are protecting and enhancing our local soils and how they can be supported in their work.
Katrina McQuail, Meeting Place Organic Farm, Huron County
Dan Breen, Breen Acres, Middlesex County
Brenda Hsueh, Black Sheep Farm, Grey County
Jacqueline Dwyer, Toronto Black Farmers Collective
Facilitator: Melisa Luymes, Headlands ag-enviro-solutions consulting

3:15 pm Closing Keynote: Celeste Smith
Founder of Cultural Seeds Consulting and Executive Director of Ga Gitigemi Gamik/We Will Plant Lodge
Celeste Smith offered an Indigenous perspective on the soil, land and Indigenous science.

Thank You to our 2023 Sponsors!