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The Weather Network
Apr. 21, 2019 | Sunday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter to the editor: Protecting small farmers
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY NANCY MACRI.
OPINION

Dear Mr. Harley,

A good report, covering all the bases. I see that the minimum 10 acres for a farm winery is a proposal in the final draft of the official plan.

I believe that a discussion is in order here as our mayor and councillors seem to be going with the 10-acre suggestion. The rationale provided reflects what is going on in other parts of Canada. It does not recognize that Niagara-on-the-Lake has a unique climate, nothing like it anywhere else in Canada. It is why this area became a leading producer of fruit and vegetables long before the wineries took off.

As we have learned, farms and wineries require a huge amount of heavy hard work, and they all started off small. That is why most of them have fallen into the hands of land assemblers and developers, for lack of good planning. More recent generations of inhabitants apparently did not care for this type of work for a living. Historically speaking, this has been evidenced in Grimsby, Stoney Creek and Beamsville. Evidently the town councils did not protect the small farmer, who was often someone who was eking out his land merely to provide for his family, often with only immigrant status.

It seems to me that today if a farmer wishes to cultivate part of his 7.9 acres for fruit and vegetables, and the other part for grapes or winery, then who are we, townspeople, to interfere? He does the work, not us. I would much prefer to buy his fruit and vegetables because he is close to where I live, as is Quiet Acres, Walkers and others. I laud Mr. Florio’s efforts to try to produce both commodities. And, I prefer to support both of his local business ventures. Perhaps, he, and others in his position, prefer to farm on a small basis and are not pressured to farm ‘big’. Perhaps the farmer’s circumstances have not been so fortuitous as others — to inherit or to be able to purchase the minimum requirement. Perhaps he prefers hobby farming. I fail to see how we can impose any minimum land requirement. Perhaps this farmer will develop an award-winning farm method or strategy to make his farm winery sustainable. I have lived in parts of Italy and France where vineyards, fruit trees and herbs are part of town and city living. I have seen dairy cattle grazing on the front lawns of homes and pastures in town parks in Switzerland. And in Germany and The Netherlands I observed reindeer wandering among the biergartens in the countryside. Please council members, do not forget what attracts us to this area - the farms together with the small towns all in the countryside. It is not always about big money — big is not always better.

Let’s not forget the history and extremely valuable stories of how successful vintners such as Paul Bosc, Mr. Ziraldo, Mr. Reif, Mr. Konzelman, Mr. Pilliteri, and Les Rancourts began their farms, farm wineries and estate wineries. Their stories are what enrich us as a community. They will become part of our Historical Museums one day.

Ten acres seems like a figure drawn out of the air, since apparently ‘20 acres’ is required for estate wineries to be ‘sustainable’. Firsthand, I might be inclined to agree with the town council who have planning consultants - but farmers never had planning consultants back in the day. And, yet, I cannot ignore the plight of Mr. Florio. Why should there be a rule for how many acres he must have for a farm winery? Is it really meant to help this farmer or others like him? How? We ought to be encouraging our farmers, not making it more difficult. If a rule is absolutely necessary, would a compromise of minimum 5 acres for a farm winery be suitable to both sides?

Why not?

Something for the town and the planning consultants to think about. Kudos to Mr. Florio for asking the question.

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