$2.58M Great Lakes funding focuses on farm-based projects
With Lake Huron as a backdrop, Ontario’s Environment Minister announced $2.58 million to pay for 19 new projects, all focused on helping farmers protect the environment.
“This $2.5-million investment is part of a broader $10 million plus envelope, but it’s actually working hand in hand with local leaders, like Don,” says David Piccini, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
That’s Don Farrell he’s talking about. Farrell is a longtime board member of the Pine River Watershed Initiative Network, a grassroots, not-for-profit group created in 2000 to try and restore the health of the Pine River, near Ripley.
By planting over 250,000 trees, and installing over 10 kilometres of fencing to keep cattle out of the river, they’ve returned the waterway to health, and with $60,000 in new provincial funding, they’ll do even more.
“Whatever we get, we like to put in the ground. If it’s in the ground, it’s going to help somebody,” says Farrell.
Most of the 19 projects are focusing on keeping soil, and potential pollution from Ontario farms, from entering the province’s streams, rivers and lakes.
Projects like subsidizing the cost of planting cover crops, designed to help the environment and increase food production.
“Organic material is really important to us. It will get you through a tough year. Having a strong soil structure helps in limited rain and heavy rain,” says Brandon Coleman, a Huron County farmer who planted cover crops with the assistance of the local conservation authority.
“Cover crops really help to reduce the wind and water erosion, and if that soil stays on the field, it stays out of the creeks and waterways, and the lake,” says Hope Brock, with the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority’s Healthy Watersheds Initiative.
“If that soil ends up at the bottom of the lake, it’s no good to anyone,” explains Farrell. “So, all their efforts are to preserve what they own. With the price of farmland, you can’t be letting it wash away or blow away. You need it for production."
Projects like the Pine River Watershed Initiative Network are building on work already underway through the Lake Erie Agriculture Demonstrating Sustainability (LEADS) fund. A five-year, $15.6-million commitment from the federal and provincial governments to help farmers adopt more sustainable farming practices.
“Utilizing soil management and planting trees to control any runoffs that could potentially happen, and more importantly to demonstrate how we’re all working together to ensure clean water throughout our lakeshore,” says Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
A list of the projects funded can be found here.