As Doug Ford’s Bill 97 makes its way towards law, the reaction among farmers is somewhat mixed. Many are tired of clearing and tiling land and now jump at large parcels, ready to farm, priced in the $20,000 to $30,000 per acre range. Crops are already in and those acres aren’t selling.
As good arable land becomes harder to find, the less likely farmers will be to sever any lots, especially at the larger sizes that by-laws now require.
Some are looking at being able to sell off pieces of what they consider un-farmable land and bring in some extra cash, always welcome on a farm. But not next door to the main farm.
The last of a line of four, five-acre lots, severed decades ago, was put up for sale last year for $50,000. It sold within days. It is low land, the other three lots drain through it to a ditch, will need a raised septic system and, like two of the other houses will only have a crawl space. One has a semi basement with three sump pumps, two working and one back up!
Still others are looking at it as enabling them to severe a lot or two for their children to build a house. In our township many farms are currently unable to sever additional lots due to a limit of two lots per farm property after 1981. Our 200-acre home farm is one such property, the previous owner sold off two lots already.
Farms can build a house for a farming child as long as it is smaller than the existing house, an auxiliary building, but what happens when you have already built a smaller dwelling for one offspring and can only build something smaller than that?
All are aware of three things. Firstly, this section of Bill 97 only benefits those who already have the financial resources at their disposal to buy the land, create an entry and lane, install a septic system, electrical entries and drill wells and finally build.
Secondly, this bill will not help the majority of people looking for reasonably priced, ready to move in homes to rent or buy with public transit nearby. No transit means another reality of rural life: the necessity of two vehicles to buy, operate and maintain.
Thirdly, ex-urbanites moving into agricultural settings do not understand farming and the realities of living beside livestock and crop lands often leads to bitter complaints and other problems. City does not understand farming.
The Algonquins of Ontario own land near Carlsbad Springs, part of which they are developing with Taggart into a new environmentally-conscious community encompassing Indigenous values. The expected population will be 45,000. Beside this was a treed area which they started clear-cutting in March of this year without permits. Residents, joined by Ecology Ottawa, Greenspace Alliance, Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability and Horizon Canada, held rallies in front of this second parcel to stop the tree cutting. Ottawa issued a stop work order.
Covered by CTV, one gentleman put his ignorance on full display. He claimed to have read the complete Ontario “Farming and Food Protection Act, 1998” and no where in it does it state that farmers have the right to cut down trees as a part of normal farming activities. He was going to file complaints about this clear cutting!
Well, any farmer will tell you that in Ontario, without clear cutting, there would be no farm land. Our current fields are the result of cutting down trees. In fact, many of the scrub bushes that are around were also once cleared fields which became overgrown due to not being used.
Another woman declared that the trees being cut had been there for 50 years! But what about prior to the 50 years? This was no old growth forest so it must have been cleared fields prior to that. Do people not stop and think? I guess not.
At this point the City of Ottawa lifted its order, so the cutting continued, with the land rented to a farmer. But I’ll bet the residents are still irate over it.
No, the last thing we need are more houses in the country.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.