GUELPH – With updated Census of Agriculture statistics reflecting a loss of 319 acres per day in Ontario, Ontario Farmland Trust’s new executive director Martin Straathof is stressing the need for farmland protection amid the calls to address housing supply issues.
“Losing this much land per day is not sustainable. This is a wicked problem and we want to work with the full range of stakeholders, including governments, policy makers, farmers, and developers, to find a solution to these problems,” Straathof said. “It will take a lot of unique thinking to find solutions to address the needs of Ontarians without losing more farmland and we look forward to being at the table for those discussions.”
The Ontario Farmland Trust touts itself as the only land trust dedicated solely to protecting farmland. At the end of 2021, the farmland trust protected its 20th farm and has been steadily adding farmland protection to lands around the province. The protection consists of applying easements on the property to ensure that land is never used for urban development.
Straathof, whose background is in agriculture, non-profits and rural planning, started with Ontario Farmland Trust in June. Raised west of Ottawa in Arnprior, his childhood was spent on his family’s dairy farm and being involved with local 4-H clubs.
He moved off the farm to study International Development (with an emphasis on rural and agricultural development) at the University of Guelph. After graduation he went back to the farm for a year before taking a position with the University of Guelph’s Alumni Affairs and Development with the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).
While working at OAC, he started his master’s degree in rural planning and development, which led him to a job working for Halton Region’s agricultural land use policy team. He’s no stranger to the impacts of urban sprawl. It’s happening in his hometown.
Keenly aware of how interdependent agriculture, food and communities are, he’s passionate about ensuring Ontario’s communities are able to feed themselves in the future. Straathof’s vision for the Ontario Farmland Trust is to continue building on the organization’s work of the last two decades. “A big part of that will be done through community engagement and creating unique partnerships to get in front of people who maybe have not considered farmland protection before.”
He encourages anyone who has thought about protecting their land to contact the Ontario Farmland Trust.