Markham –  In the face of urban sprawl and dwindling farmland in Ontario, a new poll has found that 83% of Markham residents surveyed support the creation of a “Foodbelt” in Markham.  The proposed Foodbelt would protect 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of some of the best farmland in Canada.
 
Existing agricultural land in Markham is under constant pressure for development and the existing farms in Markham are dwindling faster than any other region in the Greater Toronto Area.  In the five years between 2001 and 2006 Markham lost 4,890 hectares (12,085 acres or 43%) of its farmland.*
 
“The people of Markham have stated their desire to protect their local food resources,” said Dan McDermott, Director of Sierra Club Ontario, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. “Farming is part of the heritage and tradition of Markham. The Markham Foodbelt will prevent this tradition and access to local foods from becoming extinct.”
 
“The best way to build a stronger Markham is to support this proposal for a protected Foodbelt,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, an Ontario Greenbelt Alliance member.
 
The poll also found:
   – Respondents in Markham are very or somewhat concerned about the availability of locally grown food (71%),  controlling urban sprawl (73%),vand providing a good balance between protecting local agriculture and building new homes (81%).
   – Nearly eight-in-ten respondents indicate that they are somewhat/much more likely to buy food that was locally grown in Markham and similarly, eight-in-ten respondents felt that it is important to protect local farmland and green space.
   – Municipal candidate support for the Foodbelt can have a strong positive impact on voter intent.
   – 41% of respondents felt that real estate developers have a great deal of influence over local municipal politicians and 65%  felt that they should have less influence over local municipal politicians.
 
“Support for the Foodbelt appears to speak to local concerns over growth and development related issues,” said Craig Worden, Senior Vice-President of Public Affairs at Pollara.
 
“Once you pave over it, it is gone forever,” said Philip Ling, chair of the Markham Environmental Advisory Committee. “This is our opportunity to choose life over pavement, providing many generations with meaningful, productive
foodland instead of sprawl. In conjunction with preserving this land we need to ensure a fair living to those who farm. Imagine a legacy of healthy local food and healthy green jobs in our community.”
 
The Municipal Council of the Town of Markham is hosting a public meeting on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 to discuss the proposal to create the Foodbelt. The meeting will be held at 7pm at the Hilton Suites, 8500 Warden Ave., Markham.
 
The poll, commissioned by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, was conducted by Pollara between January 25 and 27, 2010, among 501 adult residents of Markham. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 4.4%, 19 times out of 20. To download the poll results, visit www.greenbeltalliance.ca.
 
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of more than 80 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
 
Source: Markham Agricultural Assessment, 2009
 
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For more information, or to arrange, interviews contact:
 
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Dan McDermott, Sierra Club of Ontario, (416) 960-6075; (416) 873-3852 (cell)
Craig Worden, Pollara (416) 921-0090 x 2235