We need to keep our farm land

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by William J. Langenberg, M.Sc. Env. Biol.

“No Farmers – No Food”, I read on a sign on County Rd 43, just outside Kemptville, for many years. That sign was a warning sign for me that we will lose our local food supply if municipalities continue to expand outwards overtaking prime farmland.

We have already lost 11.5% of farmland, according to Deron Johnston (North Grenville Times, Jan 24, 2018). In addition, wrote Johnston, “We lost 50% of pasture land”, which not only feeds cows, but serves also as prime carbon sinks, which means that it sequesters CO2. Pasture land prevents CO2 from going into the atmosphere. Each hectare of farmland, taken out of production, will release between 200 and 400 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, according to the EU.

“No Farmers – Global Warming”. That’s pretty scary, when we think about losing our local food supply and, at the same time, contributing to global warming through urban expansion.

Pasture land stores on average 100 tonnes of carbon per hectare and cropland 75 tonnes, says the EU. This carbon will be all lost to the atmosphere if we pave over these prime farmlands. An average Eastern Ontario farmland stores roughly 45 tonnes of carbon/ha, based on that soil’s organic matter content.

I planted the 1-hectare “Maple Orchard” on Concession Road across from the High School in July 1978. This orchard will be 40 years old in July of this year, and has become a prime carbon sink, provided this orchard is left undisturbed. The maple trees and grass as understory capture a lot of carbon.

Remember, the BDO Report presented to us at the Municipal Centre well over a year ago. This report’s main recommendation was “Carbon Management” as a top priority, with respect to Kemptville College’s future research and education program. Why is the College’s unused cropland not put into pasture?

With a little research and calculations, I discovered that the 1-hectare “Maple Orchard” could sequester roughly between 80 and 120 tonnes of carbon if samples were taken this summer. Under the International “Carbon-Credit”-Cap-and-Trade Program, Dutch/Australian farmers receive a carbon credit based on the soil-carbon stock and carbon flux on their land from year-to year spread over 100 years (1/100 of the carbon value per tonne). The value of the stock is based on the present world (Chicago) carbon price of $25.00/tonne and the number of years the contract runs. An average Australian/Dutch farmer, having 30 hectares [ha], can realize a carbon credit income of $60 – $125 per ha. The 1 hectare College’s Maple Orchard, left untouched for the past forty years, may be storing a substantial amount of carbon credits.

Urban expansion, be it residential, commercial or industrial, onto farm/forest land will not only reduce our food supply, but will also contribute to increased CO2 release into the atmosphere, contribute to global warming and consequently drive-up our share of carbon tax we pay.

It is of prime importance to preserve prime agricultural and/or forest land around Kemptville, and especially at the College. We have to stop living in our own shadows and start looking and planning for a sustainable future for all of us.

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