I Get Letters...


Some people sent some kind words my way, and I thought I would return the favour.

Laura Young writes:

Have to thank you for your online piece about finding the true end of Yonge Street. I was gathering all the info I could find on the web about the Holland Marsh northeast of the mechanically pumped portion, before calling farmers up there to join a landowners association I’m forming (my family has land in Holland Marsh, though I live in Toronto with my husband & young son). Your writings prompted me to drive up and see the area for myself rather than just call them up. I’m so glad I did. It’s interesting to me that greenbelt maps that protect “the bounty of Holland Marsh” include sod farms and wetland in their food production acreage count. Anyways, thought you might find the attached press release of interest.

The press release attached was of interest, and I hope Laura won’t mind if I post this for wider release:


Attn News Editors:

Holland Marsh shut out of greenbelt funding board, still at risk of flooding; landowners and farmers forming “Holland Marsh Greenbelt Association”

Holland Marsh, ON, Aug 16 -On Saturday, August 18, Bradford West Gwillimbury’s Carrotfest festival will celebrate the bounty of its portion of Ontario’s Holland Marsh Greenbelt. These celebrations might become a thing of the past unless family farms are given a voice over the control of their land and drainage system and funds for their administration.

Over $25 million in funding has been provided to the “Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, but Holland Marsh landowners and farmers have not received much benefit from this funding initiative. They still continue to ask, “where is our money and where is our voice”.

Providing support and assistance for our local farmers has become a critical issue in modern times in light of increased concern over food security. Local produce grown in Holland Marsh is a significant part of ensuring continued high-quality food in a secured environment for the benefit of all residents of Ontario. In light of recent e-coli scares, and other concerns relating to food contamination, it is unrealistic and foolish for us to continue to rely upon the exportation of food from thousands of miles away. We cannot adequately control the quality and purity of these food sources, but surely we can ensure quality and purity for food grown in our backyard.

Nonetheless, the current approach taken under the implementation of the Greenbelt Act 2005 has virtually ignored the concerns and needs of the farmers in this precious agricultural community. Plans for a Greenbelt Holland Marsh Advisory Council were shot down in provincial parliament.

Holland Marsh landowners and farmers are banding together to form the Holland Marsh Greenbelt Association to give farmers a voice in upcoming government decisions regarding administration of our land and to provide a vision for food security and economic viability. To launch the formation of this new association, we are inviting the press and public to learn more about the problems (and solutions) for local farming at a press conference at 11am at the Holland Marsh Greenbelt booth at approximately 80 Holland St E. at Carrotfest Festival, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Ontario.

That would be 11 a.m. this Saturday, I’m assuming.

Speaking at the press conference will be University of Guelph’s Muck Research Station Professor Mary Ruth McDonald, York-Simcoe Green Party leader John Dewar, Iggy Natoli of Buncha Farmers Market, and local landowners.

Holland Marsh Greenbelt Fast Facts:

  • Holland Marsh was originally a 20,000 acre wetland from east of Hwy 27 to Cooks Bay; the wetland and Holland River were named after the first Surveyor General of Upper Canada, Major S. Holland.

  • Holland Marsh greenbelt maps designate the whole area, including reclaimed individually named marshes, vegetable and sod farms, wetlands and recreational areas as Holland Marsh specialty cropland area. To date there has been no clarification of overlapping designations for Official Planning purposes. http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Asset1294.aspx

  • University of Guelph Muck Research Station was established in 1948 to examine various aspects of vegetable production on muck soils. They have increased the life expectancy of the organic soil from 50 to 200 years, and operate environmental programs and seed development trials in cooperation with farmers. http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/stations/kettleby/kettleby.htm

  • Approximately 125 Holland Marsh farmers will have their tax bills increased by at least $3.2 million to pay for the cleaning and relocation of their drainage canals ($500 per acre x 6,500 farmable acres). The total project will cost $14 million and includes bridge work, life safety, road work (including infamous Canal Road). Approximately half of the $14 million will be assessed to road authorities and life safety. This project has become prohibitively expensive for farmers after decades of municipal inaction. It does not address heavy commuter use of marsh roads interfering with farming operations. (source: Art Janse, retired Holland Marsh Drainage Superintendent)

You can read more about Laura Young’s work here.

Good luck!

In a similar vein, John Bowker of the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Association e-mailed me about discussions underway between the Roncesvalles Village BIA, the Toronto Transit Commission and the City of Toronto to revamp the sidewalks of Roncesvalles Avenue to improve the pedestrian experience. These discussions seem to be free-flowing and amicable, and John is interested in ensuring that as many people in the community are consulted as possible so that the end result is something most people can be happy with. It seems the businesses love the idea of expanded sidewalks but worry about the loss of parking. The TTC wants to help out the businesses, but would like to ensure that sidewalk widenings don’t force more automobiles into blocking streetcars.

Further details can be found here and you are invited to join the discussion. I’m sure they’ll manage to work something out.

In other news, posting has been slow as it has been rather busy here, with website work, freelance articles, and some mad cleaning in advance of more in-laws arriving. However, I am getting a backlog of ideas, and things should be back to normal soon. There are some interesting posts ahead, so stay tuned!

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