By Connor Lynch
STONE MILLS — A proposed hog farm at Stone Mills Township, northwest of Kingston, was approved by local council and five local and provincial public agencies but the project has hit a new snag: A small group of local protestors want it stopped.
The 1,200-head hog barn for a weaner pig operation is being built by farmer Mark Slack of Slack Family Farms, which already farms in the Tweed-area. Township council approved the project back in May. Reeve Eric Smith said that the proposal had been approved by multiple independent agencies, including: the local health unit, OMAFRA, the ministry of the environment and Quinte Conservation Authority. Council even had its own independent agency, XCG Engineering Consultants Ltd., review the application and the 96-page report from the provincial agencies. “Our solicitor had all that there. He approved everything, said it was ready to go to council.”
With the t’s crossed and I’s dotted, there was no reason not to approve it, said Smith. In fact, the township’s lawyer told him that refusing it would probably mean an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, which would demand an explanation for why it wasn’t approved. Simply put, there wouldn’t be one.
But a couple of community groups have expressed concern and opposition to the project, citing concerns about water quality in nearby Beaver Lake (about a kilometre away), possible impacts on nearby wells, as well as noxious odours from the farm or impacts on their property values. An area hydrogeologist wrote up a draft report for those opposed arguing that the project shouldn’t have been approved, which council agreed to forward to the relevant approval agencies and even paid XCG to review, Smith said.
A petition opposing the farm and sent to council contained around 600 signatures, said Smith, but most were people out of town, out of province and out of the country, including Hong Kong. About 150 signatures were from locals or people in the area, he said.
Smith added that if there turns out to be something wrong with the project, or the agreed upon application isn’t followed, the council can and will stop it. But the plan council received was sound, he said. Smith also said an OMAFRA representative told him it would take an earthquake to crack the manure tank Slack plans to build. As Smith put it: “The property on Waddell Rd has been owned by the Slack family for decades and they have a right to build and work their land.
“Stone Mills Township is an agricultural municipality and we welcome new business in our community,” he said.
The protest has left farmer Mark Slack a bit dumbfounded. “It’s anti-farm, anti-family, anti-Slack and anti-hogs.”
The plan for the barn came together about two years ago when Slack’s son came back from university looking to farm. Slack already has a 2,400-head finishing operation on the farm at Tweed, so they decided a weaner operation that sent animals to the finishing operation would be a perfect fit. The Stone Mills property is actually Slack’s home farm and the 300-acre property already has a 150-head beef feedlot on it.
It’s all eerily familiar to Slack. A neighbour just five minutes down the road, a dairy farm, went through the same thing: a kid came home from university and the farm expanded for them. “They built a big, beautiful barn and carried on like nobody’s business. We try and do the same thing and apparently the world’s coming to an end.” Two dairy farmer neighbours that expanded in recent years reached out to say they couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, Slack said. “They cannot believe the BS we’ve gone through. Those are their words. Because neither one of them had to.”
Slack said the protests against the farm have been “half-informed, fully engaged.” Said Slack: “It’s unfortunate that we’ve banned straws. That’s what they’re grasping at.”
Slack said he’s not worried about the approval being challenged either. “They can’t stop it. Every agency it’s been forwarded to has already approved it. There’s been no changes.”