Despite plenty of urban growth, Bradford hasn’t forgotten the importance of its rural roots, nor the significance of sustaining collaboration.
That message was reinforced by Deputy Mayor Raj Sandhu in his speech during the Holland Marsh Growers’ Association (HMGA) annual general meeting (AGM) recently at the BWG Leisure Centre.
“I want to express our deepest gratitude to the association for the unwavering support you have provided to our community over the years,” he said.
Sandhu went on to list some of the projects the town is exploring in the hopes of helping the growers within the marsh including:
- Improving bylaws
- Investing in way-finding signage
- Potentially providing funding for agri-tourism
- Planning naturalized phosphorus removal projects
- Working with the province to remove phosphorus from the West Holland River
- Advocating to other levels of government on behalf of local farmers
“Our farmers have to navigate it all: complex regulations, increasing traffic congestion, advancing technology, stewarding the earth, rising costs, all to put food on our table,” Coun. Jonathan Scott said via email after having attended the meeting.
Some of those projects are still in the early planning stages.
Bradford’s chief administrative officer, Geoff McKnight, is organizing a joint committee with the Township of King to investigate harmonizing some bylaws and policies across the two municipalities — including official plans, zoning bylaws and property standards bylaws — the first step of which will be creating a work plan to determine the scope and timing of the task.
McKnight is hoping the plan can be presented to both councils later in the year.
“This effort is in response to a request from the HMGA to harmonize those bylaws to the extent possible so that farm operations can address a common set of rules regardless of whether they operate in BWG or King,” he said via email.
The new way-finding signage is intended to direct visitors to local farmers’ markets and operations offering on-farm sales.
As part of an ongoing effort to develop a new tourism strategy, the town’s Office of Economic Development is hoping to begin identifying and mapping points of interest in 2024 for potential signage in future.
Other projects are part of ongoing efforts by town staff and council.
Council approved a plan to potentially include agri-tourism in the town’s Community Improvement Plan (CIP) on Dec. 19, with a workshop proposed to take place later this year. It also passed a plan in September to use vegetation to naturally remove phosphorus from the marsh and West Holland River, and has advocated for issues including the right to repair agricultural equipment and relief from the federal carbon tax for rural residents in June and December, respectively.
A phosphorus recycling plant is also an ongoing effort, which largely relies on funding and support from the provincial government, who committed in April 2022 to provide $24 million over three years.
According to a presentation from the Ontario Clean Water Agency included in the agenda for the Holland Marsh Drainage System Joint Municipal Service Board meeting scheduled for Feb. 8, the agency is planning to host engagement workshops with municipalities, conservation authorities, first nations, consultants and other interested parties about the engineering and site selection criteria for the new facility by the end of May.
During the AGM, members of council also praised the efforts of long-time board members Mike Ferragina and Doug Van Luyk, as well as the “exceptional” leadership of Jody Mott, executive director of the association.
“Jody, your commitment to our association and our local farmers has been nothing short of remarkable,” Sandhu said in his speech.
The association did not respond to multiple requests for comment as of the publication of this article.
For more information about the association, visit hmga.ca.