Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland every day.
That is the average daily loss of farmland, according to data from the latest Census of Agriculture that was released in May 2022. It is a steep climb from the 175 daily average loss that was recorded in the 2016 Census of Agriculture.
“To see a daily loss of 319 acres of farmland is a shocking jolt of reality that is simply not sustainable if we hope to have any kind of food sovereignty or independence in Ontario,” says Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “While urban growth isn’t the only cause of farmland loss, it can’t be denied that development is putting intense pressure on Ontario farmland. Urban development is leap-frogging the Greenbelt and straining against urban-rural boundaries.”
Farmland is a finite, but diminishing resource, and the availability of prime agricultural land is fundamental to Ontario’s future. A country’s ability to feed its own population is an important pillar of a well-functioning and sustainable society.
While Ontario is geographically large, much of the northern reaches cannot be farmed because of the Canadian Shield and climate. In the south, cities and towns cover much of the landscape. All told, only about five per cent of the province’s land is suitable for growing food or raising livestock.
Losing 319 acres of this land daily is the equivalent of losing nine family farms each week.
“What will that look like in 10, 50 or 100 years if left unchecked?” asks Brekveld. “Once this farmland is gone, it’s gone forever. We are not saying don’t build. We get the province has to accommodate growth. What we are saying is to build in the right places through long-term strategic land-use planning.”
The 319 acres per day figure was calculated based on a comparison of the total farm area in the province in the 2016 Census of Agriculture (12.4 million acres) versus the 2021 Census of Agriculture (11.7 million acres). The difference of 582,392 acres is divided by five to reach an average annual loss of 116,478.4 acres per year. Divide that by 365 days to 319.12 acres per day.
Source: Ontario Federation of Agriculture June 10, 2022 news release