Friday, 12 December 2014

Our Farm

I'm not the sort to write letters to politicians on a regular basis, but it's what I've been doing this morning. This is why:

Land Transfer from the Farm to NCC  
It's not just a cornfield - make your voice heard
In his decision in November to sever 60 acres of Central Experimental Farm fields, the Honourable John Baird, minister for the National Capital Commission, has made it clear that, unlike in other countries, a national heritage site designation offers no guaranteed protection from development and doesn't even trigger consultation with stakeholders.

While the Friends of the Farm support a new hospital, it doesn't need to result in the loss of this valuable land with national historic status and ongoing long-term research. Friends' President Eric Jones and former FCEF presidents, along with the media, historians, researchers, heritage and community advocates have written about the land transfer. These commentaries are listed and will continue to be compiled on our website

In his exploration of responses to the land transfer announcement, Peter Anderson of Carleton University noted that many see the Farm as empty fields that are "untapped, wasted" which is totally unfounded. Julie Harris, heritage specialist and co-author of the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site Management Plan, notes that these "empty fields" are, in fact, open-air laboratories where important agricultural research continues to be conducted." It is land on which detailed scientific data has been recorded for over a century. 

For more than 125 years of cropping research at the Farm, there have been many scientificsuccess stories including 260 varieties of improved corn, many high-protein, pest-resistant soybean varieties, wheat varieties resistant to the devastating Fusarium head blight, 28 new milling oat varieties and 50 lines of hulless oats, as well as the development of new techniques and methods of cultivating, fertilizing and screening for plant diseases. As Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz pointed out this week regarding the new grain legislation, "the sector generated about $23 billion last year in grain and oilseed farm cash receipts."

It is clearly not just a cornfield. There are immense benefits to Canadians and to Canada's agriculture and food industries from such research, which depends on continuity in the field experiments using the same testing grounds year after year. Members and supporters of the Friends of the Farm are encouraged to make your views known to MPs, MPPs, city councillors and federal ministers. Help us protect the Farm in its second century.

I spent my volunteer hours at the Farm when I was doing my Hort certificate, and the longterm volunteers were already worried about resource cuts and the possibility that the Farm would be broken up for condos or something. I don't like the trend; it worries me. The data says we're going to have to make substantial increases in food production to keep up with population increase in the next 50 years, plus climate change means extreme weather is liable to make farming a lot harder in the same amount of time - like it's not hard enough already. And here we have a heritage site which has been a productive research station for over a century, in a country which may be large but has a limited amount of land you can grow crops on, (most of which coincides with where people keep building cities), and they're not only cutting resources, but also space. Really, you'd think it ought to be going in the other direction...

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