Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Service Manager
The province of Ontario is comprised of many ecosystems that are unique and beneficial to the provincial landscape. Maintaining these ecosystems is the responsibility of all citizens who call Ontario home. There are many organizations and individuals who are committed to maintaining and improving the ecosystems around them.
The Lower Thames Conversation Authority (LTCA) recently hosted a bus tour where guests were able to view some specific projects which maintain or add to the ecosystems in the Chatham-Kent country side. A few of these projects were established by individuals and farmers who are eager to improve soil sustainability and increased crop yields and the efforts needed to allow agriculture to be successful within the area.
The bus tour visited several tree planting projects which local individuals began and have maintained. With assisted funding and assistance from the LTCA, each project consisted of a few acres planted with a variety of trees, both coniferous and deciduous trees. The purpose of these projects is to create some more forestation and encourage wildlife to settle into these areas. After only four years some of the tree stands have matured significantly and various birds and small animals are making it their home.
At another stop, in the middle of a farmer’s field, effects of different tillage techniques and how cover crops can improve soil stability and potential were shown. Attempting to use little or no tillage when cropping the soil and using as much green material as possible has convinced this farmer that there is still a lot to be learned about how our soils works. An interesting fact he pointed out is that even during winter when the soil is frozen there is still activity going on in the soil due to the sun’s energy.
The LTCA maintains municipal ditches which provides drainage for farmland. Due to the flatness and the level of the land, drainage is essential for local farmers. These ditches are lower then the water level and therefore the LTCA manages pumping stations to pump the water up into creeks which empty into the lake.
The Cadotte Coastal Wetland Project near Mitchell’s Bay was the last stop for the tour, this multi-year project includes controlling invasive Phragmites, prairie tall grass restoration, tree planting and trail development. This 48-acre site sits between the mainland and Mitchell’s Bay and after only a few years has become inhabited with various wildlife.
A short presentation was made about establishing windbreaks along the outskirts of fields. The purpose of these windbreaks is to protect the soil from wind erosion but also to improve the ecosystem. Windbreaks provide habitat for many birds, pollinators and insects which are all beneficial for crops. Well established windbreaks can also be a source of income when various berry or nut plants are part of the planted section.
This tour showed the positive affects of how people and organizations contribute to our local ecosystems. Agriculture in Ontario is very integrated with the many ecosystems which make up our province and when properly maintained allow maximum results in food production. There are many different ways farmers are able to maintain the ecosystem they are part of, it’s a matter of finding out what works for them and maintaining that system.