SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO — Disappearing farmland? The reality on the ground in southwestern and Western Ontario contrasts with recent OFA messaging on the topic, at least in terms of productive farmland used for crops.
Over the last 10 years, the amount of cropland put to use in southwestern Ontario has grown by 2.55 %. That’s based on figures from the 2021 Census of Agriculture. While it’s true that overall farm real estate has shrunk a bit in the broad region — a drop of just over 1.5 % — net cultivated cropland has not, and that’s an important distinction in a hungry world.
Of 20 counties in Southwestern and Western Ontario, there were just over 6.26 million acres of cropland in 2021 — up 2.55 % (or 155,831 acres) over the 6.11 million acres of cropland recorded in 2011. The 2021 figure also represents a small 0.31 % gain on the 2016 Census, which tallied 6.25 million acres of cropland.
Cropland — or “land in crops” as termed by Statistics Canada — refers to the usual field crops, as well as fruit and vegetable plantations and sod and nursery products. It does not include hay, pasture, silage crops, Christmas trees, woodlots or any other unproductive areas.
Farmers Forum looked at 20 counties west of Toronto to make these calculations with the Census figures.
Between 2011 and 2021, 12 areas increased their cropland acres, offsetting a decrease elsewhere in the southwest during the same period. Chatham-Kent tops the list of those with positive cropland growth of 16.62 %. At the bottom is Essex, which in 2021 lost a 20,000-acre bump recorded in the 2016 Census but still managed to eke out an acreage slightly ahead of 2011.
Gaining cropland acres:
- Chatham-Kent (16.62 % or 85,420 acres)
- Elgin (12.35 % or 36,992 acres)
- Oxford (11.46 % or 39,076 acres)
- Peel (8.38 % or 6,216 acres)
- Wellington (8.31 % or 33,496 acres)
- Perth (5.78 % or 25,601 acres)
- Grey (5.18 % or 14,539 acres)
- Middlesex (4.46 % or 23,142 acres)
- Haldimand (2.87 % or 5,043 acres)
- Simcoe (2.81 % or 10,222 acres)
- Essex (0.16 % or 498 acres)
Losing cropland acres:
- Norfolk (-14.22 % or -11,254 acres)
- Halton (-7.39 % or -4,557 acres)
- Brant (-6.85 % or -9,419 acres)
- Huron (-5.58 % or -33,838 acres)
- Waterloo (-5.37 % or -9,635 acres)
- Lambton (-4.26 % or -21,853 acres)
- Bruce (-3.64 % or -13,894 acres)
- Niagara (-1.47 % or -2,677 acres)
As a percentage of all land in southwestern Ontario, cropland comprised more than 54 % of the region’s geographic footprint in 2021, up from about 53 % in 2011. The region comprises over 11.4 million acres or 46,361 square kilometers.
The supply of all kinds of farmland grew the most in Chatham-Kent, which posted a gain of more than 16 % between 2011 or 2021, rising from 546,615 acres to 634,681 acres.