The following letter was received by JSC for publication from Betty de Groot, Caledon, and her father Carl de Groot, Orillia
Dear Caledon & Ontario residents:
As current and former residents of Caledon, we’d like to have our community consider the following. My father, an 85-year-old immigrant from Holland, has been a farmer since childhood. Since coming to Ontario his appreciation of the land where we grew up in south Caledon as being good workable farmland has NOT changed.
Doug Ford, with his ‘open for business’ policy has forgotten that farming is a business too, and one in which those employed in it find dignity and value. The way his policies have bullied Municipal Governments into expanding their urban boundaries is shameful and dangerous in our opinion.
As the GTA, and Ontario, grows in population, it is critical that we maintain local farms for the very basic need that food will have to be sourced for all. Lessons were learned during the pandemic about how weak our manufacturing industry had become because we had outsourced goods production to countries outside our borders, especially PPE. We can avoid making this mistake with our agricultural industry if we keep our priorities, and our farms, intact. But we have been on a wrong-minded trajectory.
According to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in an article written in January, 2021, “Our province loses an average of five farms per week to development in an effort to keep pace with Ontario’s growing population.”
Urban sprawl is a product of shortsighted planning, which is, minimally, a disservice to the growing population. It is the result of our taken-for-granted local food systems, the lack of appreciation of our limited supply of Grade A local soils, and the misunderstanding of the public benefits of denser, yet interconnected, urban centres.
Losing our food security is avoidable if we realign with sensible and forward thinking priorities: affordable homes in walkable and communities, interconnected by transit, and fed, entertained and sustained by local living, and thriving farms, forests, parklands and wetlands. This means protecting the Greenbelt as it was designed and not as Doug Ford imagines it should be: smaller, weaker and negotiable. It also means protecting the so-called “Whitebelt,” which is NOT “underdeveloped land” but often farmland . And as the saying goes If you ate today, thank a farmer.
My father has a message for Ontarians and for our governing system: It should be a criminal act to destroy good farm land if there is alternative land available. Ontario has plenty of land that isn’t suited to farming which can be sought for development. How naïve of our leaders to kill the goose that lays the golden egg by destroying our food-growing land. We have the natural resources available now – why destroy it? Development should only take place on land that is non-productive for growing food, to preserve the little bit we have left, because our future offspring have to eat too.
We won’t have an election for another 3 ½ years, and while Climate Change is presenting us with excellent opportunities to learn from past mistakes and improve our way of doing things, with Doug Ford at the helm we believe missing them all! Fellow voters, you’ve heard it said that we are judged by the company we keep. Well enough has been said about Ford’s good buddies. The remainder of us and future generations need local, affordable food and deserve to feel safe, heard and respected.
Citizenship doesn’t begin and end at the election ballot. It is our responsibility today, tomorrow and every day to voice sanity when our governments have lost sight of the public and future good. Please speak up directly or through your favourite local organizations, to our MPPs, and our premier about the risks they are subjecting us to. Being a silent bystander is going to get us into trouble.
Betty de Groot with her dad, Carl de Groot,
Caledon and Orillia