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Not in my back farm

Nestled on the outskirts of Norfolk County, Schuyler Farms is well known for its apples, cherries, sheep, and now, Controlled Atmosphere Storage turning a family farm into a large business that employs over 100 people at any given time. Family-owned and operated for generations, Schuyler Farms is an essential part of Norfolk County’s agricultural community so it was exciting to hear Brett featured as a guest speaker on the Mayor’s brand new podcast, Folklore.

Prime agricultural land, specialty crops, severances, urban boundary expansions, immigration and seasonal farm workers coupled with growth, and development were all up for discussion. A timely discussion in Norfolk, as Council just passed their urban boundary expansion adding more lands into the urban boundary for growth. This growth will include housing, parkland, industrial land for job creation, a special provision for a health care campus and even land for new schools that will see an organized and methodical plan for development over the next 25 years.

As an agricultural advocate of Norfolk County, Brett emphasizes the quality of its produce, noting that the county grows over 80 million pounds of apples. With this agricultural abundance comes the importance of economic growth. “I like growing food, and I need people to sell it to,” says Brett. He highlights that while agricultural land is crucial to Norfolk’s heritage, so are the people who help farms, farm stands, and small businesses thrive.

In their discussions, Mayor Martin and Brett touch on the two types of land in Norfolk County: hazard land and prime agricultural land. Both are important and serve multiple purposes. When it comes to land use, Brett questions what matters most and how Norfolk can make the best use of its land. He emphasizes finding common ground to ensure that Norfolk County grows more than just produce. Mayor Martin noted that so long as Norfolk is a rural community and so long as the powers that be suggest that all of Norfolk County soil is either hazard land or prime agricultural land, urban boundary expansions will go forward adding in prime agricultural land into the mix.

“We need to preserve that high-value land with essential soils that can grow almost anything” states Brett, while also understanding, that despite classification as prime agricultural land, not all farms in Norfolk are and if they are, mostly likely not the entire parcel is. “Land is important, ag is important, people are also important.” Brett mentions when explaining how none of these things work without the other. Farmland and growth can co-exist.

With roughly 395,368 acres of land in Norfolk County, 218,100 of that is agricultural farmland, the urban boundary plan would develop roughly 1,350 acres over the next 25 years, a reduction of only 0.34% in what is considered agricultural leaving 54% of Norfolk as agricultural.

Until now, Norfolk County has never had a comprehensive growth plan. Over the years, it has grown exponentially but in a piecemeal fashion. Currently, Norfolk County is allowing for continued growth but in a much more organized manner. This plan not only controls population density and the geographical development of homes but also aims to improve infrastructure, parks, schools, and job development, all while preserving our valuable soil.

“Canada is a story of immigration and growth,” states Brett noting that he wouldn’t be here today to advocate for agriculture if his family didn’t come to Norfolk from overseas. Brett and the Mayor discussed immigration as a factor for growth and the need to create housing for all members of our community but it needs to be smart and measured. They both agreed that Norfolk officials and community members need to deal with the facts at hand and make decisions based on what we can control- the growth boom not being one of those factors.

The podcast discussion concluded with exciting opportunities for Schuyler Farms, including the popular use of sour cherries in ‘sleepy girl mocktails,’ a trend made popular by social media, a niche market requiring juice cherries. Other exciting opportunities include the Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage plans, which can extend the shelf life of produce. Brett also shared his favorite pie, which, to no surprise, is apple pie—without the added sugar.

You can listen to the latest episode, “Not in My Back Farm,” of Folklore podcast on Spotify or Apple podcast. This episode includes Brett Schuyler’s conversation summarized above, along with a few other great episodes that highlight Norfolk County as the humble community we all call home. 


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