Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Houses in the Fields

"They're growin' houses in the fields between the towns,
And the late night drive-in movie is closin' down
The road has gone to the way it was before,
And the spaces won't be spaces anymore"...

Travelling down the 401, Ontario's superhighway that cuts along Lake Ontario and through the Greater Toronto Area, I was struck by the old farms I saw. Transports and thousands of cars race by what were once quiet homesteads: old houses built from the limestone that is found nearby, and pastures hewn from Canada's old-growth forests using man, woman, and horse power. Now, billboards for the next rest stop litter the fields, and big box stores and factories interrupt the landscape. Prefab homes sprout behind noise-reduction walls, where once crops grew and animals grazed.

Our little road is so far out of the way, it still isn't paved. There won't be a superhighway coming by our homestead anytime soon, but I have seen urban sprawl on the highway that takes us to Ottawa. I remember
"Old Highway 17" that took us through the small city of Pembroke, and all the forests and farms that provided us with peaceful green views until we reached the big city. There is research being done about the effect of a beautiful view on our spirits (the researchers don't refer to our spirits of course, but to the endorphin receptors in the parts of our brain that are stimulated by looking at, say, a forest scene or a lake view).
Ah...a Gaspe Peninsula Farm
Whether we think it's good for our soul or good for our brain, we can all agree that green spaces are a good thing. Billboards and box stores? Not so much. When things get hard for us financially (like right at this moment, for instance) and I feel like giving up on the homesteading dream, I just need to remind myself of all those abandoned farms, where once corn grew; I am filled with new optimism and resolve to find a way to keep my family here, come hell or high water. The world's farmland is precious, and dwindling...and certainly worth fighting for.

"Houses in the fields, no prayers for steady rains this year,
Houses in the fields, there's houses in the fields...
The last few farms are growin' out of here..."
~John Gorka


  1. Yes, things have really grown up along the 401, even in the 8 short years since I left. Bowmanville has changed even more. The roads don't always go where they used to, let alone the fields and orchards. One thing to keep in mind though, the 'abandoned' farms are because farmers don't get paid anything close to a living wage. So when the developer comes along offering good money for farmland the farmer jumps at the chance to actually MAKE money from his farm.

    The best way to stop urban sprawl is to buy local and make sure farmers can actually afford to feed their families.


  2. "Nature deficit disorder" , my co-wokers and I have discused this at length lately! I live about 3 hours from Toronto and visit maybe once every two or three years ( usually work related) I used to find I enjoyed it for a day or two but now I try to find any excuse not to go. It exhausts and saddens me

  3. It is so worth fighting for, Stephanie.
    And driving to.
    People can never understand how I can stand the hour long drive at the beginning and end of my workday. But, within 30 min on the way home, I am in farmland and once I am home, the birds, the sunset, the stars, and quiet make it all worth it.
    Some people drive an hour just to cross the city. At least I have a reward at the end.
    We do have to support our local farms and producers to keep them alive and in our communities!
    Good post!

  4. I just returned from a visit to the GTA. A relative has a 58 acre farm, the original family homestead, that is rapidly being SURROUNDED by those houses. These folks are afraid that their taxes are going to go so high they won't be able to keep the farm.

  5. Members of my family used to farm just outside of Ottawa, I wouldn't be able to find the old farms if I tried. We're moving to the Barrie area next and I can see the farm land being crowded out by housing and development. This doesn't bode well for food production in Ontario...


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