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We Didn’t Fall Off The Potato Truck Yesterday

October 6, 2012

I live in Ontario.  I’m smack in the middle of one of the routes from Toronto to the playground of the ‘northern’ part of this province.  Traffic is endless (and scary) at times while everyone tries to get up to cottages, camping, skiing, snowmobiling — whatever your outdoor country pleasure.  People often stop at our little towns along the way, particularly in summer when we have our farmer’s markets and the locals put their wares at the end of the driveway.  My area is well known for potato farming.  It also has quarries — we are high on limestone around here.

Big Business recently eyed our little jewel.  The Highland Group of Companies, (owned and operated by a $25 billion  hedge fund from Boston, U.S.A) bought over 8,000 acres of prime agricultural land stating that their intent was to create the biggest potato farming operation in Ontario.  Then they sneakily applied for an application for a mega quarry.  This will be the second largest open pit mine in North America — 2,700 acres big.  That’s one giant hole.  Bigger than Niagara Falls.  Them’s no small potatoes.

This quarry could seriously and adversely affect the water, the landscape, the community, surrounding agriculture land use, and has the potential to cause disastrous environmental scenarios in Ontario for decades.  It will more than likely destroy our local potato farming.  This is a location that is recognized as one of the primary sources for water recharge feeding the Nottawasaga and Grand rivers.  The mega quarry would require 600-million litres of water to be pumped out of the pit each day in perpetuity.  Tampering with this water could affect over ONE MILLION people who are downstream from, rely on and served by these watercourses.  I don’t have a number for the wildlife it would affect, but I’m sure it’s more than a million.

Well, the smart farmers and neighbours of this community started to catch on that something wasn’t right.  We know what needs to be done to prepare for potato farming and it wasn’t being done.  What’s with that?  We started getting nosy and asking questions.  After being stonewalled, we started demanding answers.  Eventually, we uncovered the plot and a movement was formed.

Once we started getting the word out, such as big red signs on our properties for all the commuters from Toronto to see, many groups and people started joining in.  We called on our provincial government to do an environmental assessment.  Amazingly, in Ontario, you need an environmental assessment to build a house, but you can dig a hole the size of 2,000 football fields into an aquifer in the middle of prime farmland without any kind of assessment.  Our EA Act has not changed in 40 years.  They tried to ignore us, but we got pretty loud.  On September 1, 2011, we were granted an unprecedented result and an environmental assessment will be done.

We held an event called Foodstock last year wherein volunteer chefs from Toronto received donated produce from our local farmers, and then created amazing dishes to be served at this delicious feast.  We were astounded with the outcome: 28,000 people supported the effort.

“Foodstock was one of Canada’s largest-ever celebrations of great food, clean water, and healthy communities,” said Dr. Faisal Moola, director of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Ontario program.

This year the event, held on October 21 at Toronto’s Woodbine Park and now called Soupstock, will be co-hosted by The David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Chefs’ Congress.  We have 120 chefs participating from all over Canada and expect it to be the largest-ever culinary protest in the world.

Some people decided to take the message to greater heights.  Earlier this year father and son team Graeme and Blane McPhail took a ‘Stop the Mega Quarry’ sign to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Who knew a hole in the ground could inspire a climb up a mountain?  The depths are completely relevant to the heights.

If you are in the area and would like to check out Soupstock, or if you would like to support the movement in any way (sign the petition), you can begin here:


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