Farming Our Future: Measuring Farmland Conversion in Wellington County
Rural Ontario is in a constant state of change, as economic, environmental and political pressures impact the viability and resilience of many rural communities. Agricultural areas, in particular, are often negatively impacted by such changes, as this land may be more valuable for development purposes. Farmland is often converted to residential, commercial or aggregate land uses, significantly impacting the viability of the agricultural industry. However, the actual amount of farmland lost to non-farm land uses is not well-understood as no methodology to accurately measure this loss has been established. This research project evaluated official plan amendments between the years 2000-2014 to track planning decisions that remove agricultural land from production. This methodology has been applied to nine counties and regions across southern Ontario. However, the focus will be on the results from Wellington County, including the amount of farmland converted to non-farm land uses, trends related to these losses and a reflection on the impacts of planning policies on farmland loss. It is interesting to note that approximately 76% of Wellington County's land base has been calculated as census farms by Statistics Canada (2011). Regardless of this high proportion of farmland, residential development is expected to increase. As such, some farmland within Wellington County has been developed for non-farm land uses and much farmland is under threat of development.