Much like my performance when attempting to run the 1500m race at track and field days, my blogathon started strong but as the race wore on, I got tired (or in this case my brain felt like exploding) and I’m finishing late. But I’m still going to finish, after a 2 day respite; I’m going to write the 4th and 5th blog posts over the weekend.
For my first post, I’m weighing in on a long standing controversy that has been brewing in a small community an hour north of our farm. Shelburne and the surrounding townships are in the heart of potato country in Ontario. A few years ago an individual started buying farms in the area, telling residents that the goal was to build a large efficient operation. Farms were bought well above market rates and in a relatively short time span the company had amassed landholdings of more then 7000 acres. As time passed, it came apparent that John Lowndes was merely an agent for a large hedge fund out of Boston operating under the moniker, The Highland Companies, and instead of a massive potato operation, the goal was to build a limestone quarry that could rival the biggest in North America. If you visit the company’s website (highlandcompanies.ca) they give you the impression that they are warm and fuzzy firm that cares about the future of the community but to my sceptical eye I see nothing but corporate whitewash. In my opinion, they are making the calculated decision of just how many community events they need to support to get necessary approvals to go ahead.
When it came to light that the real plan was to develop the land into a 2400 acre limestone quarry, members of the community joined together to form the North Dufferin Agricultural & Community Taskforce. They have been active and very vocal; making every attempt to stave off a quarry that they feel threatens the sustainability of the community. Today, Shelburne stands as a community divided with former neighbours not talking with each other, depending on their stance in the debate.
While there are lots of issues the NDACT has brought forward in concern to the quarry I want to focus on one undeniable fact. People can eat potatoes, people cannot eat limestone. Allowing this quarry to proceed will remove 7% of the provinces potato acres. Don’t think that is all that much….to give you a better picture lets talk about the 5 pound bag of potatoes that you buy at the grocery store. 7% of the crop puts 9.8 MILLION those bags on your grocery store and my estimation is being conservative because I haven’t accounted for yield differentials throughout the different potato growing regions in Ontario. It just so happens that the land that we are talking about destroying is the most productive potato ground in the province. Dufferin and Simcoe counties are 1st and 2nd respectively in terms of potatoes yielded per acre.
We can get bogged down in the details but I want to really hammer home my point; people can eat potatoes, people cannot eat limestone. I’m not denying that we need aggregates but let’s not build quarries in the centre of our most productive regions. Urban expansion has already buried the majority of the most productive land in our province under concrete and pavement but our provincial government had started to show some foresight for the future with programs like the Greenbelt initiative. I would appeal to our policy makers to once again look out for future generations of potato eating Ontarians by quashing this quarry.