On the issue of land-clearing, ‘opinions are like farts’

The Editor:

I’m sure I’m not the only farmer in North Dundas who is growing tired of the letters to editor condemning our practices and making us all out to be the bad guys. Two weeks in a row, between the Winchester Press and Nation Valley News, Theresa Bergeron from Chesterville has made her negative opinions of farming practices known.

Farming is no longer a way just to survive, gone are the days of producing livestock and crops to get your family through each year. It’s turned into a multi-million dollar sector of the Canadian economy. It provides roughly 2.2 million jobs countrywide. We work hard to produce what we do, with no guarantee of a return at the end of the year. Our products are shipped worldwide and are in everyday items you use. Your comment about “not to feed the hungry, but to feed those new middle class that can now afford meat” was a low blow. Granted, not all us farmers farm to feed the world, but it is a passion, a love of what we do, farming is not for the faint of heart, especially when we have to put up with nonsense like this.

Sadly, it’s people who fail to understand the complexity of farming that have the loudest voice concerning farming practices. PETA, the Toronto Pig Save, to members of our own community, cry out anytime something we do doesn’t fit their “ideal” way we should be running our farms and businesses. It’s people like that who call out for countless changes and new red tape regulations, forcing farmers to invest more time and money in paperwork, legal forms and outright losses to our net income when the government believes they and the activists know better. It’s so easy to point the finger.

 Here are the facts, Ontario’s landscape is dominated by forests, lakes and wetlands:

  • Ontario is 107,636,418 hectares (ha) in total area (266 million acres)
  • 87% of Ontario is publicly owned (93.2 million ha) including:
    • 9.7 million ha within parks and protected areas
    • 83.5 million ha of Crown land
  • 13% of Ontario is Federal/First Nations or privately owned (14.4 million ha)
  • 18% of Ontario is water (19.4 million ha) of which 8.7 million ha is the Great Lakes
  • 9% of Ontario is wetland, marsh and open bog (9.5 million ha)
  • 5% of Ontario is field or agricultural land

 Agriculture uses 5,381,820 hectares of land in Ontario, a very small player in the land base when you look at it. But, with the expansion of urban cities, we lose land every year. From 1991 to 2011 there has been a loss of 969,802 hectares of land, 3.9 million of prime farmland since 1971. Every year farmers are forced off their land to accommodate the growing city population who can’t feed themselves, but are so quick to tell us all we are doing wrong! Government gets its way when it demands farm property for its plans; Frank Meyers lost over 200 acres in 2013 for a military expansion. So, when farmers lose prime farmland, or at $12,000/acre for good tiled land, who want to expand for our next generation, where do we go? Why aren’t you fighting the cause of us losing rights to our own land, why aren’t you writing to oppose the subdivisions that are also cutting down trees to accommodate their housing and taking over productive farmland? Why do you continue to oppose us? Whether it be land clearing or windmills and solar power? Fellow farmer Yann Bossel poses the question: “Do you really believe our forefathers were that stupid winding fences straight as an arrow through the trees?” Neglect of keeping trees from growing has lost us acres that were once productive farmland. It’s likely the property your house is sitting on used to be forest or farmland, so, essentially you and every other homeowner are already part of the problem.

What you and others are crying out for will only make things more difficult for us in the long run. It’s interesting you say, “This type of landowner activity would never be allowed in Europe, but we let it happen here.” Do you know the way farming works over there? It’s a totally different situation. European farmers are so loaded with restrictions and laws that it makes it almost impossible for them to make a decent living without government subsidies, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen if you continue to fight and work against us. Why do you praise them now, but fight against the windmills that Europe has adopted as safe and effective? If it works for them, why not for us? I believe, because it goes against your ideal of what the landscape of North Dundas should look like. You have your mind made up, you know right from wrong, and it seems now it’s time for all of us to fall in line with your thinking.

Every landowner has a right, within legal limits, to do as they please with their land. Your new neighbour would have known that fence was on his property, therefore had all rights to remove it. Generally, in leaving fence rows, it allows for more weeds to grow, spreading across the field resulting in more herbicide use, that you claim, “the water will be choked with weeds and polluted with pesticides.” I’m sorry you’re so misinformed, but we have guidelines to follow when it comes to using these products; those that do follow laws and regulations do so because we know the land is our living, desire not to do damage to the environment, and none of us want to be handed a hefty fine. It’s just another statement to make us look bad. And frankly, I’m not the only one who is tired of it.

No one is stopping you from growing your own black raspberries; again, it’s not your land, and you have no legal claim to those nor compensation if the bushes are removed. There is still lots of bush around for turkeys and minks to survive. Turkeys love to visit our fields in winter to search for food; you’re welcome for feeding them! I find it interesting how dramatic your mink story became, in The Press, it was, “We now have a poor mink who is lost, looking for a new home,” and in the Nation Valley News it changed to “a rare black mink that lost his habitat has probably died.” Hopefully he will find his 500 friends that an animal activist released from a farm out in southwestern Ontario.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a few questions. How old was this bush? 20, 60 years old? If it’s around that age, it’s likely that land might have been used for farming in the past. If that’s the case, is it ok for us to reclaim that? This summer, we cleared out half of an old pasture that over grew the last 25 years; it was used for farming before, and will be returned to productive land as soon as we’re done. Based on your opinion, we should have paid to have experts out to do an environmental study to determine if a “rare black mink” was inhabiting that, even though it used to be used for farming. If you are so concerned with the loss of trees in our county, why don’t you plant trees to reclaim some habitat for animals? Wouldn’t that be a great start to rebuilding the forests in the county? To fight against us who need to maximize use of every acre we have, and to have land yourself that you could easily turn into forest, seems like the pot calling the kettle black. You apparently want money to live, and so do we. This is a farming community, please get used to it. We all have things we don’t agree with, but nagging and creating enemies doesn’t help anything.

I’ll finish my quote from the headline, “Opinions are like farts, everybody has them, and nobody wants to hear them. Most of them stink anyways.”

Tammy Lynn Zollinger – Zollinger Farms
Mountain