Kawartha Lakes farmer protects land with conservation easement
Agreement allows him to continue working the land or pass it on to next generation
KAWARTHA LAKES — Debate rages in Ontario over the government’s Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, which has opened up parts of the Greenbelt to development and has fast tracked environmental and wetland evaluation for construction. Some see it as the answer to increasing affordable housing, while the counter is the loss of farmland which cannot be replaced.
One Peterborough-area man is concerned about the reduction of farmland in Ontario and is doing something about it. Bruce Kidd and his family have farmed their 195 acres of Douro Township land since the late ’80s. He has entered into an agreement with the Kawartha Land Trust to protect the property for generations. Kidd has a “conservation easement agreement” with KLT, which allows him and his family to continue farming the land as well as protecting the wetlands and wildlife from any development.
“We’ve lost too much farmland to development”, Kidd says as he prepares to take his grandkids snowshoeing on the property. He has cut three trails through the bush on his property to enjoy. Kidd has scaled back on his farming by selling off his cattle and just focuses on hay.
There are a number of options for donors; an outright gift of the land to the KLT according to Thom Unrau, the Director of Community Conservation at KLT. “About two thirds of our donations are gifts of land while the rest are through a conservation easement.” It’s a legal and binding agreement which allows the donor to continue working the land or passing it down to generations but the Kawartha Land Trust is registered to the title of the property.
The 195-acre Kidd property has been a working farm for almost 200 years and features about 130 acres of farmland and the rest is wetlands and bush featuring several species at risk. The easement with the Kawartha Land Trust checked all the boxes for Kidd. “I wanted to make sure the land could still be used for agriculture” while not impacting the natural features of the property, he said.
Ontario is losing farmland at an alarming rate. Statistics Canada’s last census shows more than 235,000 hectares of Ontario farmland were swallowed up by development between 2016 and 2021. That works out to 319 hectares lost everyday and that will put pressure on food production when you consider only five percent of land in the province can support agriculture.
Unrau worked with Kidd through the process of the easement. “It’s inspiring to work with farmers to protect their land,” he said. While Kidd does not get compensation for the easement, there are a number of tax deductions he can take advantage of. The Kawartha Land Trust currently manages 31 properties covering more than 5,200 acres.
Kidd sees the “conservation easement agreement “as protecting land for future generations. “It allows you to keep what you have been working on as a farmer. It can’t come back once it’s gone.”