Greenbelt Farm Stewardship Program Helps Protect Environmentally Sensitive Area

March 10, 2008 - Concern for the environment led Chris Mullet-Koop of Elmwood Farms, who along with his wife Laura, works 57 acres just south of Jordan in the Niagara Peninsula, to develop an Environmental Farm Plan and take advantage of affiliated cost share and top-up programs.

“We’re surrounded by sensitive environmental features,” says Mullet-Koop, who is the fifth generation farming this parcel of land.

Located within the Greenbelt and the Niagara Escarpment Planning Area, their farm has seven acres of Carolinian Forest on its northern perimeter. To the south, several intermittent waterways flow towards Lake Ontario. Much of their property lies within the floodplain of the Twenty Mile Creek watershed, and one of their neighbours is Ball’s Falls Conservation Area.

Needless to say, the potential impact of their operation on the adjacent environmental features is a concern. The Mullet-Koops keep 6,700 layers for egg production, as well as manage a 50-acre vineyard. They are in the process of converting their vineyard from juice to wine varieties to take advantage of local opportunities for marketing their produce.

Through the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) process, Mullet-Koop had identified the need for a manure storage facility, and once his plan was deemed appropriate through peer review he became eligible for cost share funding programs offered in association with the Canada-Ontario EFP. Additional funding from the Greenbelt Farm Stewardship Program (GFSP) provided up to 75 per cent combined cost share to farmers implementing eligible beneficial management practices (BMP).

The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation supported the EFP program with a $2.4 million grant, delivered in collaboration with cost share programs delivered alongside the EFP program. While access to funding for new projects through GFSP has now ended due to the incredible demand, more than half of the nearly 700 approved GFSP projects are in the Niagara Peninsula. Mullet-Koop’s is one of them.

“Our biggest potential environmental impact relates to the management of manure from our laying hens,” notes Mullet-Koop. “The manure is a valuable resource which we use to fertilize the vineyards. We have sometimes spread it twice a week, even through the winter, but with our variable weather here, winter thaws create run-off issues.”

Mullet-Koop’s manure storage facility is a covered 42 by 30 foot building with concrete containment. It is sized to hold 240 days worth of manure, as required under the Nutrient Management regulation. To acquire the necessary building permits, the Town required an engineer-approved Nutrient Management Strategy, for which he was also able to obtain cost share funding. Mullet-Koop required permits from the Niagara Escarpment Commission and had to meet Conservation Authority requirements that his building was outside the floodplain. “It seemed we had a mountain of paperwork to go through, over and above that required for the cost share programs. I have to give full credit to Mark Neufeld, our EFP Workshop Leader, for all his support and encouragement and for facilitating the many steps along the way,” says Mullet-Koop. It took a year to obtain the necessary permits, but the storage facility was finally completed in November 2007. There is a cap on funding available to each farm operation.

“GFSP and federal assistance to us amounted to cost share coverage of about 2/3, and allowed the project to go ahead. But even with additional financial assistance from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, I still had to put out about twice as much of my own funding as I had originally planned,” says Mullet-Koop. “While I will recoup that in the long run, economics is still the bottom line when considering these types of projects. If we can’t make a profit and a living, we’re not going to be in business very long.”

“Nevertheless, I’m very happy with my storage facility,” says Mullet-Koop. “We can spread manure at a more appropriate time for incorporation into the soil and make more efficient use of the nutrients in the manure. We can also measure the quality of the manure before spreading.”

It benefits the environment as well by greatly reducing the chances of polluted surface run-off from reaching adjacent watercourses. Mullet-Koop would undertake other projects with more time and additional financial incentives.

While the manure storage was top priority for him at this time, other projects he would consider include retaining clean run-off from his drainage tiles that could be re-used for irrigation, and modifications to his sprayer to make spraying operations more efficient. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs provided funding for EFP and the associated cost share programs under the Agricultural Policy Framework. The Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition has led agricultural support for the programs, and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) delivered the programs locally.

Chris Mullet-Koop

Chris Mullet-Koop

Manure Storage Shed

Manure Storage Shed

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Prepared by Nancy Tilt for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

For a PDF of this press release click here.

For further information, please contact Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association at 1-800-265-9751 or visitwww.ontariosoilcrop.org.

For information on the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation visit www.greenbelt.ca

For information about the APF visit www.agr.gc.ca/efp

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