Land, particularly farmland, is one of the vital resources often caught up in these challenges, as urban sprawl continues and communities try to accommodate for their growing populations.
The McCann family, and their 200-acre farm in Milton, know this all too well. About 5 months ago, they were informed that the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) was planning to expropriate a portion of their family farm to build a high school. The family has been working the land since 1827.
So the McCanns, and much of the community that rallied behind them, were relieved and overjoyed to hear earlier this month that the school board withdrew the plans. An online petition—which received over 37,000 signatures—eventually got the attention of the school board trustees.
Many in the area felt the plan wasn’t thought through, including Colin Best, a Milton City Councillor and member of the Golden Horsehoe Food and Farming Alliance, especially since the school would have been beside a cattle farm.
“The McCann farm attempted expropriation is an example of people not considering the challenges of farming near growing urban areas, and the need for schools to be placed in the middle of approved urban development so students can walk to school,” Colin shares, “and where the benefiting builders work with municipal staff to locate schools on their properties and not operating farms similar to parkland dedications. This is even a greater concern where there are livestock operations who need minimum distance separations from urban development to protect their livestock and fields from harm.”
Thankfully, this time the farm community’s voice was heard and understood.
“We were really just looking at lines on a map,” said board trustee Anthony Quinn in this Toronto Star article. “As far as we were concerned, this was the best site — it had the best drainage, the best access to roads. When we discussed this process around the table, I don’t think any of us understood that this was a family farm.”
Hopefully this sort of dialogue that leads to understanding can continue going forward, as communities work together to grow and flourish into the future — which will require a healthy rural farming sector to nourish the growing population.