Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2019/ Wishful Thinking 008: Farmland Conservancy

Wishful Thinking 008: Farmland Conservancy

While biking along Kossuth Road this afternoon I saw a "for sale" sign that read "Future Development Potential". That is code for "we will pressure the government to turn farmland into subdivisions, so maybe if you buy this property you will win the lottery." That makes me very upset. But what can you do? There is enormous pressure for our cities to sprawl, and farmers want money, so they will sell.

Here's what you can do: you can set up a land conservancy similar to Nature Conservancy Canada, except for farmland. The goal of this organization would be to buy up fertile farmland threatened by development and then preserve it as farmland. This organization could lease out the land to early stage farmers.

Why should such a conservancy exist? Because it is not good for any individual farmer to preserve farmland, but giving up all the farmland (especially the high quality farmland around here) for subdivisions leaves cities less resiliant to the Calamity.

What would prevent the organization from buying up farmland and flipping it a few years later? Maybe they could promise to hold land in perpetuity. Unfortunately, the argument will then be made that by selling these 50 acres of very in-demand land they can buy 500 (or 5000) acres of farmland somewhere else. I think that at the very least the conservancy should promise to maintain the land as farmland for a good long time, like 50 years.

Who would pay for such an organization? I can think of two lucrative sources: farmers with quota (such as dairy farmers), and techbros. Unlike other farmers, farmers with supply-management quotas do very well. If they have vested interests in maintaining farmland as farmland, then they might be willing to contribute land and money to this cause. As for techbros: they talk a good game about preserving countryside lines and disrupting cities, but then they go out and buy country estates. If they put their money where their mouths are, then there would be plenty of land nearby for food.

The farmers farming this land would do well too, because they would have big markets for their food next door. That means this kind of land might be used more for vegetables and fruits and heritage meats, and less for soybeans and corn.

The downsides would be that this conservancy would push speculation bidding wars higher, and that if the conservancy was not able to buy enough contiguous farmland, you might get farms surrounded by suburbs on all sides.

Maybe such an organization exists already. If it does, I wish it would get around to purchasing some of the farms just beyond Waterloo Region's countryside line.