Ontario Agriculture

The network for agriculture in Ontario, Canada

When it comes to the growing season for Canadian farms, the southern counties in Ontario rank among the longest seasons, with favorable weather patterns and productive soils.  The land is relatively flat and ideal for producing a multitude of crops.  The two most southerly counties, Kent and Essex have a significant role in Canadian agriculture.  But it wasn't always this way. 

Before the area was colonized this was a forested land with many poorly drained swamp like areas.  Generations ago, immigrants fell the trees and drained the land and paved way for all the local economic activity that exists today.  Kent county, once a collection of small townships was amalgamated into a single municipal government just over a decade ago.  It now consists of the largest farming region in the province and a few small urban centers. 

The few areas of trees that remain have been devastated by disease and bug infestations that have left many of them in a state of poor condition.  Nature would surely clear this out with a forest fire had humans never set foot in the area.  But as no fires are going to clear out these small bush lots, land owners are.  The high prices for crops and land combined with the poor condition of these bushes had brought about a great deal of bush clearing, and the urban environmentalists have a problem with it.

Personally, I like trees.  I have planted on average 100 per year around my farm.  Fence rows and windbreaks of trees have a place in on my farm.  But that doesn't lead me to think that someone who preserved a stand of trees over the past 100yrs should be prevented from cutting them down today.  But our heavily urban dominated municipal government is entertaining a by-law, to prevent farmers from clearing their land. 

In Canada, there are no property rights.  It may seem unbelievable that a modern and free country doesn't protect the rights of land owners, but that is the case.  Up to now, the delicate balance of land use restrictions has been maintained by the municipal governments in the province without stomping on what most owners believe to be reasonable restrictions or licensing requirements.  However, as the number of urban citizens begins to outnumber the rural citizens, rules dictating our limits are becoming the norm.

It was not in the too distant past when farmers could easily purchase dynamite, pack a stump with ammonia nitrate and a half stick to remove a stump.  My grandfathers old WD-35 tractor has a big dent in the side of the fuel tank from the day he and his brother, clearing stumps, watched one fly 100's of feet into the air to drop onto a rather new tractor at the time. 

The excellent farm land of today didn't come naturally, it took a great deal of work.  Thousands of feet of clay tiles dug into the ground and laid in place by hand.  Ditches cleaned with a shovel.  The age of automation was invented out of these efforts, to help get the work done.  But the hard work that made farms productive is also reversible.  One must be ever vigilant to maintain the drainage, cut back the brush, and stop the weeds.  A few years of neglect and weeds dominate trees sprout and nature takes back what was once valued and productive agricultural lands.  But these well maintained grounds are easy to build houses and factories on, and every year there is less ground to produce food and more mansion like houses across the country side.

It is very easy for someone living in a city or town to agree to a rule that prohibits clearing trees from agricultural land, it doesn't affect their pocket book, doesn't put limitation on what they can or can't do.  It doesn't matter to most people that there house and yard was once a tree lot, or that a new subdivision results in the permanent loss of that land.  Farms can be planted into trees, asphalt yards are permanent changes.  But that didn't stop the municipal government from creating a by-law that stops the clearing trees, unless (yes the urban direction must be preserved) the trees are being cleared for non-agricultural reasons. 

It's shocking, but the list of exceptions in the draft by-law appears to exempt almost everyone except a farmer.  A thousand acres of land can be converted to an industrial park, but don't you dare cut a tree down to plant corn. 

There was a time when we elected a government to ensure that the system, the bureaucracy, was limited to protect the citizens from the loss of freedom.  Somehow, that group of representatives ensuring government doesn't over step their bounds have changed their roll.  Today, our governments appear to be who you elect to enforce your views on others, that is, if they win the election. 

I feel the greatest issue to the rural community, is that our now urban elected governments will enforce the urban view of what should be done onto the rural citizen.  Today it's a tree, maybe tomorrow a drainage ditch, soon limitations to pesticides, crops, buildings, and planting times.  Just imagine a rule that you can't work ground between 7am and 9am on the belief that the dust created can "harm" the children waiting for the school bus. 

As we have no land rights, we must rely on the municipal government.  In an ever urbanized society, I have my doubts this will work.  A bylaw isn't even required to preserve the tree lots, interested groups can rent the land from the farmer for the purpose of remaining as trees.  With economic benefit available from low quality wood lots, I am sure they will remain.  It's not an either-or situation, but it is a question of what do you value, freedom or rules forcing opinions on others. 

I hope this by-law gets voted down, but I fear as our government exists today, the day will come when the urban voice is too loud and the rural way of life gets legislated out of existence.


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