What do they have in commmon? They could have been places where people gathered to learn about being good stewards of our land.
Back in my Girl Guide leader days, we had our sights set on Utopia -- an old conservation area in Essa Township, for our new camp. Taught by my own Guide leader to leave a place better than you found it, I believed we could be good neighbours today and well into the future.
In Utopia, we would teach girls from around the area how to protect our precious water resources and how to be good stewards of our land, as well as how to work together to build a better community.
The neighbours had a different vision, however.
We were not welcome; so 16 years ago, we purchased 100 acres in Springwater, a site just outside of Midhurst.
I hope the former Barrie and District Agricultural Society doesn’t face the same fate we did.
Still too vividly, I remember the night we went to Essa Township council to share our vision with the community. The neighbours convinced council us big-city types would ruin their countryside with our traffic, our noise, our pollution.
The debate reminded me of a recent Essa Township meeting in which the Barrie and District Agricultural Society went to defend its plan for an agricomplex on 100 acres in northeast Essa, near Ivy. The neighbours used the same excuses: traffic, noise, litter. They didn’t want the city crowds coming in and defacing their land.
Yet the newly named Essa and District Agricultural Society would not only have its annual fair there – which indeed does create traffic but which also does teach the urban crowds about agriculture, its practices and its scientific advances. It teaches them to respect the critical roles farmers play in not only feeding us, but in caring for our land.
And the Ag Society’s plan to develop the site would focus more on this teaching role, as it set up an agricomplex where school groups could learn – and yes, where even the agricultural community could gather. It could be a focus of learning and of community.
Yet, the neighbours would rather see the 100 acres farmed, as they fear for the supply of prime agricultural land.
This is untenable. Few spoke out as Simcoe County, in its new Official Plan, relabeled hundreds of very-prime land to industrial, under the new, trendier names of economic or enterprise zones.
Let’s hope that Essa Township council has moved beyond the myopic times of former Mayor Charlie Pridham – and can look beyond its borders and see a new, yet very important role it can play in teaching our children to understand and support the agricultural community but also how to trade-off a small piece of cornfield for a teaching resource and gathering place for the agricultural community. Let’s encourage the neighbours to be neighbourly – to welcome others and share with them their way of life.