The Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) recently confirmed protection of its 10th farm and 1,000th acre. Through a precedent-setting partnership with the Jesuits of Upper Canada, 92 acres of their Ignatius Jesuit Centre has been permanently protected with an OFT easement agreement.
Located just north of Guelph, the easement reduces pressure for urban sprawl and buffers Wellington County farmlands. Being adjacent to the Guelph Lake Conservation Area, it contributes to a 4,200-acre permanently protected area stretching across much of the northern boundary of the City of Guelph. The site also has important natural conservation values and is home to the Ignatius Old-Growth Forest project. The protected land is associated with the Centre¹s 230-acre farm, and 270 acres that is home to the Centre¹s spiritual retreat house and additional natural lands.
OFT¹s Farmland Protection Easements are landowner-initiated “forever agreements” that are registered on property title to prohibit any non-agricultural development on the land in the future. OFT has piloted the use of agricultural easements in Ontario since 2009. Other farms protected by OFT are located in Halton, Peel, Simcoe County and Huron County. The Ignatius Jesuit agreement is OFT’s first land protection project in the organization’s home community of Guelph-Wellington.
“This project is important for the Ontario Farmland Trust, as it demonstrates the value of communities coming together to protect significant agricultural and ecological lands in the urban fringe,” says OFT Board Chair Norman Ragetlie. “It also marks a major milestone for our growing organization and Ontario’s land trust community as a whole.”
The easement is the first of its kind in Canada that sees a Catholic Order partnering with a land trust to make a commitment to permanent land protection. Ragetlie says the Ontario Farmland Trust hopes that the Ignatius Jesuit Centre easement “opens doors for additional land conservation initiatives to take root in other communities throughout Ontario where there are religious institutional land holdings and willing land trust partners.”