I had a great opportunity to visit Mr. Joe Richardson’s farm in Burlington, Ontario. I remember when I was a little girl, I used to visit his old farm and now I finally got to visit his new farm (new as in, new location!). Mr. Richardson has been on a farm since day one. He was born on a dairy farm that his father owned, way back when. Mr. Richardson believes that being a farmer is a wonderful way to live. He enjoys and takes pride in the opportunity to grow his own food, be outdoors and also sit on his tractor and laugh at everyone stressed out stuck in traffic!! Since the dairy farm is now sold, his new farm has Cattle for beef production as well as lamb. He also keeps six hens that produce eggs for his personal consumption, he also gave me a dozen “free range” eggs to take home! Farmer Richardson and his daughter also own two beautiful horses, which are used for therapeutic horseback riding for kids coping with disabilities. This farm is basically farmed organically. Mr. Richardson grows all the feed for the animals on the farm. He grows hay, as well as oats and barley, which are ground to feed. There are only two items that he doesn’t grow which the cattle consume, salt blocks and mineral supplement. However, for the initial growth of the grains, since they are spring grains there is an issue with ragweed. Under the Noxious Weed Act this weed must be controlled, which is done with the use pesticides. This is the only time there is pesticide and fertilizer used. The grain will be sprayed once to control ragweed and other weeds. The following year when the top grains are cut to be milled, the field continues to grow a hay crop, which grows successfully for 5-10 years without the use of anymore pesticides. This crop won’t necessarily be fertilized again, just manure if required. This hay is sold to local farmers and horse operations.
Mr. Richardson is strongly opposed to one political initiative. The local government has designated certain farmlands as “Heritage”, thereby not allowing full use of the land. In amendment 38 of the Halton Regionals Official plan, his farm has been designated as a Key Feature of The Natural Heritage system. This means that he and his neighbouring farms (also designated in the same system) cannot alter any aspect of the property. This poses an issue for him and fellow farmers.
For example some of his worries are, there can be no expansion of his barn, other buildings or the addition of a large animal veterinary clinic as he had once planned. As well, if the barn burns down, it is highly unlikely for him to get a permit to re-build. Overall, Mr. Richardson strongly feels that politicians should not zone prime farm land for future urban development and expansion but rather focus on the importance of local food production. He does his best to get these acts changed and stands by his principles. It was great to visit Mr. Richardson’s farm. I learned a lot about farming and the difficulties and joys that farmers face. It was also VERY cold and I was informed that the number of animals in the barn as well as the lighting, hay and manure keep the barn and animals warm. One highlight for me is him letting me hold a 1 week old lamb!!