Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying how much I enjoyed working with the member for Bow River on the environment committee. Today's motion was derived from a trip that we took out west where we visited an 11,000 acre ranch in Alberta that had 900 head of cattle. It was the epitome of sustainability and conservation in farming today. I commend my colleague for his motion, and I am happy to speak in support of it. I thank him for all of his hard work on this issue, and also for his friendship.
I have a lot of farmers in my rural riding, and along with indigenous peoples, there is no one closer to the land than farmers. Their hard work, 365 days a year, not only provides for their own families, but provides for every family living in cities as well. When one is as close to the land as they are, and when one depends on its bounty as much as they do, it only makes sense to take care of it. Farmers are some of the original environmentalists, in many ways.
Take, for example, Chris Kennedy of Topsy Farms, on Amherst Island in my riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington. This co-operative family farm has a flock of over 1,100 breeding sheep on the island in Lake Ontario. The family has a deep respect for the environment. They raise their sheep in as natural a way as possible, with no growth hormones, and with no pesticides on their land. They have also helped to create a network of gardeners on Amherst Island to contribute fresh food to shelters and food programs in the area.
Their lands provide habitat for the countless birds and butterflies that use Amherst Island as a stop on their migratory path. They have planted hedgerows and yards that attract these species, and they even have a certificate as a monarch butterfly way station.
Chris also tells me that he has put up about half a mile of fencing to keep the sheep out of Lake Ontario in order to protect the water, and he has received funding under the species at risk program to help him do it.
It is great to see that Frank Derue, a beef farmer in Odessa, is also taking part in a species-at-risk fencing project on his farm through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. He let me know that his fencing will limit livestock from accessing Millhaven Creek, which has an abundance of wildlife, including many species of waterfowl and other birds, as well as turtles, snakes, and fish.
Many farming practices are passed down from generation to generation. Topsy Farms tries to follow the lead of those who farmed before it by maintaining wide hedgerows and using selective cutting practices in its woodlot.
I have also spoken to a lot of people in the local woodlot association in my riding. They care about using the most sustainable practices, because they want to pass down the land to the next generation in as good a shape or better than they received it. That is indicative of all farmers today.
Farmers know their land down to the smallest detail. Chris will tell us that the growing abundance of field mushrooms on his land during wet years is showing how the land is slowly increasing in organic matter. That is very good stewardship, since the soil on Amherst Island is very thin.
I am also grateful, when I speak to the farming community, to hear how willing and eager farmers are to do outreach and teach people about the work they do. Topsy Farms is often participating in activities that foster an understanding of the relationship between animals, people, and the land, whether it is hosting schools, 4-H members, or workshops for professors and students from the environmental studies program at Queen's University, which is near my riding. The farm has also contributed produce for traditional medicines made at Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
These are the kinds of activities that so many of our farmers do because they love the land and they want to teach others about a love of the land as well.
A very good friend of mine, Terry Gervais, has a farm and a large sugar bush operation in the northern part of my riding. He bought the farm in the early eighties. He worked the bush and grazed cattle on the land, which he then brought to his restaurant that he owned in Toronto. His beef became famous throughout the city of Toronto because it was grass fed, naturally fed, and it was very sustainably farmed. He would also bring in a number of school groups, indigenous communities, and 4-H clubs, and have pancake breakfasts. That was purely for the opportunity of educating people on the importance of conservation and modern-day farming practices, which can be developed anywhere in farming communities.
By the way, Topsy Farms will be on the Tougher Than It Looks? show on the Discovery channel later this fall.
I tried my hand at shearing a sheep once at the O'Hara Mill Homestead and Conservation Area in Madoc. It is tougher than it looks, and I was only operating the hand crank on the old-fashioned shears. I can tell members that by the end of about 45 minutes, one is pretty much cooked. I do not know how one does it sheep after sheep. It is remarkable.
Another great example of farmers taking an active role in conservation and stewardship in my riding is Cam Mather. He is an organic farmer at Sunflower Farm in Tamworth. He and his wife have taken things one step further and live completely off the grid. Cam said that he and his wife Michelle used to say that they own 150 acres, but now like to suggest that they are temporary custodians of 150 acres of land. This is the kind of intergenerational point of view that farmers have that fosters their sense of stewardship for the land in passing it on to the next generation.
There is active work being done across my riding by the farming community on conservation and stewardship of the land. In fact, up in Madoc next month, there will be a symposium on caring for the land, organized by The Land Between in partnership with the Hastings Stewardship Council and the Curve Lake First Nation. The non-partisan gathering is meant to share observations of the natural landscape and to give voice to the people and their life on the land. It will bring together farmers, hunters, anglers, beekeepers, gardeners, nature lovers, indigenous peoples, just name it. All stakeholders will be represented at this conference.
These are just a few examples of the countless farmers who are working hard as stewards of the land and conservationists, and there are many more.
I also want to thank Resi Walt. She is the Ontario Federation of Agriculture representative in my region, and she has shared a lot of information with me about the Canada-Ontario environmental farm plan. This plan is an assessment that is voluntarily prepared by family farms to increase their environmental awareness on their farm. It has a workshop process where farmers highlight their farm's environmental strengths, identify areas of concern, and set realistic action plans with timetables to improve environmental conditions. It is important to point out that the idea for environmental farm plans originated from the Ontario farm community itself. Farmers were involved in every stage of developing the plan, through the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. This program continues to be delivered to the farm community by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association through funding provided by the growing forward 2 program, which, as we know, is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
I am looking forward to seeing the great work that our Minister of Agriculture is doing on the next agricultural policy framework, which the government is supporting in budget 2017. It will help the sector grow sustainably, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to climate change. I appreciate the hard work he is doing for farmers across the country.
Madam Speaker, if you will indulge me, I was at the Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show again this summer to speak with farmers. It is the biggest and greatest plowing show in eastern Ontario. I want to thank all of the volunteers who launched Farm 911, the Emily project, there. It is a project in memory of Emily Trudeau, which encourages farmers to put 911 signs at all entrances to their farms. I encourage everyone to visit the Farm 911 website for more information, and to get involved in this life-saving project.