Policy Council Intro Statement on Ontario Greenbelt
A FOOD SECURITY BELT RUNS THROUGH IT:
SMART GROWTH AGRICULTURE FOR A SMART GROWTH GREENBELT
There are many grounds for protecting a million-acre greenbelt
in the Golden Horseshoe:
- grounds where water can be strained
and cleaned before it's used for drinking;
where greenery filters foul air and purifies breezes with
- grounds where endangered species can
- grounds where historic towns inspire
homegrown businesses and main streets with local character,
where neighboring farmers buy supplies and feel at home;
where city residents gain access to unspoiled nature;
where ingredients grow for food processors, the biggest industrial
employers in the Greater Toronto Area;
- grounds limiting
the sprawl that robs cities of the numbers, social mix and
tax base needed for diverse and specialized services -- from
restaurants to libraries, hospitals and post-secondary institutions
- the lifeblood of a multicultural society and a knowledge-based
But the greenbelt high ground - with fertility and heat units
unmatched elsewhere in Canada - relates to food security. Protecting
today's and tomorrow's food security for some 10 million Golden
Horseshoe residents is the highest use and most compelling need
met by a greenbelt. Food is always best grown close to home,
where safety is easily monitored, where food is sold fresh, making
polluting fuels and fungicides unnecessary, and where food purchases
strengthen the local economy. As we enter a turbulent era when
oil, water and food itself will be scarce, it behooves responsible
governments to treat food security based on regional self-reliance
like any other measure of emergency preparedness. That entails
proactive measures to secure both farmland and farmers.
The Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt can protect endangered species
and spaces. They are defenceless against pavement and parking
lots, so legislation is needed to protect bio-diversity, the
vital mechanism that steers nature toward balance. On World Food
Day, 2004, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization
honoured the crucial role of biodiversity in human food production.
This respects that "variety is the spice of life," and
warns against "putting all eggs in one basket." Greenbelt
protection of endangered species and spaces keeps up with this
latest in food science.
Biodiversity supports agriculture, and farmers - themselves
endangered - can support biodiversity. Greenbelt plans should
include European-style environmental fees for farmers who provide "free" and "natural" services
that save public money. A stitch in time saves nine. A government
that can afford highways for polluting trucks carrying imported
food can pay farmers to reduce the need for imports and pollution.
Likewise, a government that pays medical bills for lungs harmed
by smog can afford to pay farmers to offset air pollution. Paying
farmers for this kind of property value and property management
is simply smart growth agriculture. It also helps farmers finance
retirement without selling the farm.
A sound greenbelt strategy puts the meat of food security on
the bones of smart growth infrastructure. If a greenbelt just
stops sprawl, we could end up with countryside theme parks, gated
communities of hobby farms, gravel pits, garbage dumps and factory
hog barns - a greenbelt without heart, soul or societal value.
Infrastructure - massive openings for farmers markets, and major
expansion of farm extension programs, for starters -- provides
the overhead for a greenbelt economy worthy of greenbelt protection.
There are many no- and low-cost ways to finance infrastructure
that saves farms by stimulating a greenbelt economy that promotes
public health and the environment.
A greenbelt that protects food security will put culture back
into agriculture, restoring local flavor, season, place and thankfulness.
It will also increase access to culturally acceptable foods for
Ontario's diverse ethno-cultural groups. Such minority needs
are poorly served by an industrial food system that relies on
mass production of products that can be mass-marketed and mass-distributed
in affluent white suburbs of the United States. The new greenbelt
economy will add cultural, health and economic value by responding
There's more to food than meets the mouth. Food is intertwined
with all aspects of life. Not surprisingly, therefore, food security
is intertwined with protecting Ontario's greenbelt. A protected
greenbelt is a crucial start, but being proactive about all aspects
of food security is a hallmark of smart growth planning.
The Toronto Food Policy
Council manages this
information service for people working on food issues with community
organizations, social agencies, public health units, educational
institutions and municipal governments. If you would like to
share information on community gardens, urban agriculture, farmers
markets, school meals, obesity, social determinants of health
and diet, local food systems, or educational and anti-hunger
initiatives in your area, please send them to Wayne Roberts at
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explicitly stated, reflect the views of either the Toronto Food
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