Agriculture and Agri-Food Economic Profile: When People Move In, the Livestock Moves Out

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance released an Agriculture and Agri-Food Economic Profile for the Golden Horseshoe yesterday at the North York Civic Centre.

The report analyzes data surrounding economic impact, number of farms, farmland area and sizes, average age of farm operators and more. Data was also compared between the regions of the Golden Horseshoe.

In the Golden Horseshoe we are farming on the most productive land in the province, but there is data that must be acknowledged: farmers are getting older (the average age of farmers in 2011 was 54.5 in Ontario, and 56.5 in the Golden Horseshoe), there are fewer women farming, and while farms are getting larger in size, the number of farms and acres of farmland in the Golden Horseshoe are shrinking. In 1981, there were 11,212 farms in the Golden Horseshoe, and 30 years later in 2011, that number was nearly cut in half to 6,090.

At the same time, there is a heightened awareness from the consumer of where their food comes from and a palate that is far more sophisticated than ever. An ever-changing demographic in the Golden Horseshoe is demanding more choices, fruits and vegetables that are not traditionally grown in Ontario, and access to urban lands to grow some of their own foods.

As the Golden Horseshoe becomes more densely populated with people, the dairy and beef cattle, pigs and large crop farms are “rolling north” to areas with less urban pressure.

In addition to economic impact, the report also looks at other social, cultural and environmental impacts of agriculture.

“Farmers have been stewards of the land for many years and have used tools such as the Environmental Farm Plan and Nutrient Management Plans to improve their stewardship practices,” said Margaret Walton of Planscape Consultants, who presented the report for the Alliance. “Unfortunately, those plans and programs have not been evaluated effectively to prove that agriculture is also providing environmental benefits for farm and non-farm residents.”

For the in-depth details of these analyses, we have shared the Agriculture and Agri-Food Economic Profile in full here. Provided are also the appendices.

Attached is also the summary presentation from yesterday’s release of the report.

Check out the below infographic, a visual summary of much of the information found in the Agricultural Profile Report. Feel free to share (or print out)!

The GHFFA is a partnership between the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Friends of the Greenbelt, Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture (OMAF), and the regional municipalities of Niagara, Peel, Halton, York, and Durham as well as the cities of Hamilton and Toronto. The collaboration works for an integrated and coordinated approach to food and farming viability in the area to ensure that the Golden Horseshoe retains, enhances and expands its role as a leading food and farming cluster.