On March 5th, 2020, the Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice hosted a webinar on planning for agriculture. This webinar fostered a discussion between the audience and the speaker, Dr. Wayne Caldwell, on the impact and opportunities for land use planning and near-urban agriculture. Potential challenges and opportunities were addressed, along with ten methods to create a more viable agricultural sector through planning practices.
As Ontario’s population grows, urbanized and highly populated areas are expanding into agricultural areas. While there are certainly opportunities for agriculture in proximity to urban markets, it can also pose some risks and challenges.
Land-use planning can help farmers deal more effectively with specific challenges in near-urban areas and make farming in the urban shadow a viable proposition. This results in a better outcome where farmers in the community can be more engaged in developing land use planning policies, and municipalities enhance their understanding of the agricultural sector’s needs. This leads to a more certain future, and in turn a stronger agri-food sector.
The audience of the webinar proposed the following insights as key benefits that planning can bring to agriculture:
- Supporting stewardship and protection of natural areas that in turn protect the landscape (soil, water and biodiversity)
- Giving agri-stakeholders the policy tools to be more responsive to pressures
- Increased local food access in remote areas
- Strategic planning policies may have the potential to support farmer mental health by reducing some of the stressors associated with isolation
- Providing farmers with opportunities to adapt to new pressures through on-farm diversification and value-added agriculture
- Planning can foster better coordination among agricultural groups and lead to greater regional economic development in a specific sector
In summary, establishing a foundation through the collaboration between the land use planning profession and the farm community can foster better outcomes in the agricultural sector.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) have coordinated a free, online network to bring together economic development and planning professionals across Ontario interested in agricultural issues. The quarterly meeting topics will be based on relevant municipal policies, procedures and programming impacting the agricultural sector.
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