Expert Coalition Calls For Town's Leadership On Markham Agriculture

MARKHAM, ON – A report released today by the Academic Alliance for Agriculture calls on Markham Council to support the Town’s few remaining family farms and ultimately save the Town’s remaining agricultural land through measures including farmland trusts and tax incentives.

The report, A Bright Agricultural Future for Ontario and Canada: Ensuring the Economic Viability of Farming in Markham’s Whitebelt, is authored by Dr. Harriet Friedmann, of the University of Toronto and Dr. José Etcheverry of York University and is being endorsed by experts from the two universities as well as the University of Guelph, Ryerson University, the University of Waterloo, Trent University, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Western Ontario.

The release comes at a crossroads for Markham, which will decide the fate of Class 1 agricultural land, Markham’s “Whitebelt”, determining a path of either unbridled sprawl and congestion, or support for a vibrant local agricultural future for the Town. Less than half a percent of Canada’s farmland is categorized as Class 1.

“Markham can either face the challenge of preserving its remaining agriculture or forever have lost an opportunity to lead the future of a vibrant, creative, agri-food sector,” said Dr. Harriet Friedmann, co-author of the report. “With innovative thinking and policy alternatives, Markham has the potential to not only save, but to also enhance the viability of its farms through the creation of local markets and new supports for its farmers.”

The report calls on Markham elected officials and planners to heed the call of its own Agricultural Assessment Strategy to enhance markets for local food, create tax exemptions and infrastructure for family farms and consider the purchase of Markham’s few remaining family farms as public agricultural land trusts.

The academics are supporting a bold and visionary plan by Councillors Erin Shapero and Valerie Burke to retain the Whitebelt land’s current agricultural zoning designation and to create a permanent Foodbelt. The report suggests that agriculture was missing from the town’s Growth Management Strategy, and that further work is needed to make farming viable once again in Markham.

“Many municipalities are creating plans to support their farmers through targeting economic development and farm education,” said Dr. José Etcheverry, a Markham resident and report coauthor. “Markham needs to engage with those farmers who wish to continue farming and support young farmers and organizations, enhancing its current leadership on the environment.”

The Alliance is looking to work with Markham planners and elected officials along with local farmers and organizations to implement the report’s recommendations.

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Click the link below to read the report or for more information please contact Darcy Higgins at 416-459-9975.

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