Photo: Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues

A new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First (Credit: Jason van Bruggen)

By Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola

Last fall the David Suzuki Foundation and our allies in the farming and local food movements defeated a mega-quarry proposed by the Highland Companies, that, if built, would have destroyed hundreds of acres of class 1 soil near Melancthon township, Ontario. Much of Canada's most productive farmland has already been drained, dug up or paved over with urban sprawl and unsustainable aggregate pits, quarries and other development. The project would have been yet another outrage against this country's rich agricultural heritage.

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The successful fight to stop the mega-quarry was inspired by tactics of the civil-rights movement and other grassroots campaigns — and people power eventually won the day. Local residents and allies held protests and rallies, wrote letters to politicians, gathered thousands of signatures, created land-inspired art, and participated in hundreds of other activities to raise awareness and put pressure on Highland Companies. The campaign benefited from support from some of Canada's top musicians, artists, writers and actors, including Barenaked Ladies, Sarah Harmer and Rachel McAdams, and culminated in Soupstock, a giant community picnic/culinary protest that brought 40,000 people together in Toronto's Woodbine Park.

Though the mega-quarry proposal was withdrawn, our precious farmland is still at risk of being destroyed. Currently, nothing prevents another similar project from going forward. So a new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First. Its goal is to ensure stronger government policies and laws to protect prime agricultural land and source drinking water areas from development.

The Food and Water First coalition, which includes the David Suzuki Foundation as well as farming organizations, local businesses and other NGOs, has already managed to get nearly a dozen communities — from small townships such as Melancthon to giant cities like Toronto — to pass council resolutions recognizing the importance of farmland and committing to protect it.

Recently, Food and Water First again joined with the Canadian actor Rachel McAdams, indie band Whitehorse and film maker Jason van Bruggen to produce an inspiring short video about the need to place our most precious assets — food and water — ahead of short-term economic gains brought about with their destruction.

Join the fight to save Ontario's prime farmland by signing the Food and Water First pledge.

October 24, 2013

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1 Comment

Oct 28, 2013
1:20 PM

A major obstacle to local farms is trade globalization. Unfortunately, in the past several years most of our politicians have fallen for the idea that if somebody can grow food cheaper elsewhere then the elsewhere is the place all our food should come from. Competitive advantage rules the game. That line of thinking however is not good for economies, farmland or the global environment in general.

The small local farmer just starting out is working against enormous odds as the game is increasingly rigged in favor of big business that is beholden to shareholders seeking to maximize profits.

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