Dawn-Euphemia says allowing 50-acre farm lots may bring young people back to rural Ontario.
The municipality is reviewing its Official Plan and one of the big changes – and more controversial – is allowing for 50 acre farm lots.
Right now, Dawn-Euphemia follows the Lambton County Official Plan which says only 100-acre lots are allowed. The county says it makes for viable farms.
The Lambton County Official Plan does make exceptions for specialty crops or “provided that a study is carried out by the local municipality to demonstrate that such smaller farm lot size is prevalent among the farm lots within the municipality.”
Mike Schnare, CAO of Dawn-Euphemia, says historically, the farm plots have been smaller than 100 acres – more in the 70-acre range.
And, he says, because nearby Chatham-Kent allows 50-acre plots, he gets three or four requests a year from people wanting to buy smaller parcels of land.
Recently, Dawn-Euphemia Council told the Lambton County Agricultural Advisory Committee provincial planning guidelines don’t set out a size for farmland and it said the county was focusing on “viable farm lots” which could provide a living instead of focusing on viable farm operations that may have many different lot sizes.
The politicians argued minimum farm lot size should be based on whether they’re practical for today’s machinery not whether a farmer could make a living off of one parcel of land.
Schnare says Dawn-Euphemia is raising this issue again because it could spur economic development in rural Ontario and that’s desperately needed. Schnare says the last census showed Dawn-Euphemia’s population dropped by 141 people or 6.4 percent.
“For young farmers getting into the business, 50 acres is more affordable…and then building from there,” says Schnare. “You’re not going to support yourself on 50 acres but three 50-acre parcels and a 100 acre parcel and you might be able to make a go of it.
“We should be looking at can the farm parcel be farmed instead of can you make a go of farming on just 50 acres.”
Schnare adds young farmers could build a home on 50-acre plots, increasing the population in the community in a time when many larger operations are buying up land and taking down homes destroying a source of revenue for the municipalities.
While Dawn-Euphemia discusses the issue at a public meeting in Florence Oct. 8, it also has some lobbying to do at the county level.
Lambton is also reviewing its Official Plan. Its latest documents on the principals which will shape the new official plan don’t allow for smaller farm lots.
Concerned county councilors didn’t approve the principals saying they needed more public consultation before moving ahead.
Schnare says it is a conversation the community needs to have. “There is an urgent need to find ways to repopulate rural Ontario,” he says in a report to Dawn-Euphemia Council. “Fifty acre lots will assist.”