The Lands Protection Act is the real problem, not the Irvings (although a vigilant eye is not remiss). Relying on “the spirit” of anything in 2019 is frankly, naïve. If the intention of the Act is to preserve soil health, small farms and healthy, vibrant economies, I would suggest that history shows it has been failing for decades and that even those original intentions are not enough. We are no longer at a stage where preservation is sufficient. We, as people of a small, rural province need to be looking beyond sustainability to enrichment and regeneration. Being outraged by exceeding arbitrary land limits is distracting us from the real, tangible issues of land and soil management.
Perhaps it’s (past) time to consider an amendment to the lauded land limits portion of the Land Protections Act. Let’s move beyond the idea of sustainable farms being a specific size and consider instead the priority of what they do and how they do it. What if instead of the focus being on number of acres, the application for land acquisition was instead treated like a job interview? What if the questions had weight and required sincere thought and consideration? Questions that lawyers couldn’t answer. Questions whose answers could be seen born out. Questions like, but certainly not limited to;
- How often will you, the owner of the land, physically be on the property to feel the soil, smell the air and monitor the biodiversity?
- · What will you do to care for the soil?
- · How often will you test the soil?
- · What sort of management practices will you put in place to mitigate contributions to climate change?
- · What sorts of innovative plans do you have to help build soil and prevent it from eroding by wind or by water?
- · Will you plant crop varieties that can be harvested early enough to put some winter soil cover in place?
- · Will there be livestock on the land? If so, how will they be housed and what is the plan for their manure?
- · Are you aware of wetlands and waterways within and adjacent to your property? What will you do to improve and maintain those?
- · Does your pesticide management plan include a reduction in inputs? Explain.
- · Will you source any manure in place of chemical fertilizers?
- · How will you help build biodiversity?
- · Will you be planting any trees?
- · Do you have plans to clear land or remove hedgerows?
- · What will your rotation look like? Anything new and interesting on your radar that is particularly good for building soil?
- · How will you contribute to the local community? (Coach soccer, volunteer at 4-H, church, watershed group?) Will you know your neighbouring land owners?
Soil health is too precious to spend any more time wailing about the evils of owning too much land. If a province has the power to limit land ownership, then it surely has the power to require answers to questions that address the issues those limits were once meant to. And the subsequent power to deny requests that don’t meet the needs of Islanders and their precious soil, air and water. What got us here, will not get us there, and it’s time to move forward with intention and focus on the thing that matters; protecting the land.