‘Really awesome partnership’: Grey-Dufferin Community Pasture seeks to team up with county on use of 193 acres of public land

Grey-Dufferin Community Pasture is eyeing close to 200 acres of publicly owned lands near the border between Amaranth and Grand Valley.

Dufferin County has owned the 193 acres around Amaranth-Grand Valley Townline for more than 30 years. Now, Grey-Dufferin Community Pasture has put forward a proposal to use the land for cattle grazing and the creation of grasslands.

Over the last few months, county council has been discussing what they should do with the land.

Scott Burns, director of public works and county engineer, has outlined three options for the land for the council to consider: keeping it as is, selling it or conducting a study to find the best use for the property.

Briefly, in March, the county’s infrastructure and environmental services committee explored turning it into a landfill, but opted against it since half the property is being rented for agriculture and the other acts as valuable wetland.

The committee decided that the best use for the land was to sell it; however, county council rejected the idea.

At the May 23 community development and tourism committee, three members of Grey-Dufferin Community Pasture presented their case for why it is in the county’s best interest to use this piece of land for cattle grazing and creating grasslands.

Grey-Dufferin Community Pasture has been active since 1979, and three generations of farmers have been involved in bringing cattle to its property and maintaining the land.

The organization has also served as a stepping-stone for rural youth who want to get involved in farming.

Mike Swidersky, manager of Grey-Dufferin Community Pasture, said the organization has had its eye on the property.

“We have a history of environmental stewardship and we’ve got a long history of managing properties like that,” Swidersky said. “Grasslands are disappearing here in southern Ontario and quite often if there’s an open piece of ground, we’re encouraged to plant trees on it, which are great, but there’s no grassland birds in forested areas.”

Other conservation authorities around Ontario have tried to incorporate grasslands into their ecosystem, but have done so without the help of grazing animals.

“It’s not disputed that for sequestering carbon, grasslands are the premium ecosystem. Far superior to forested areas, and those grasslands aren’t functional without ruminant animals,” Swidersky said. “They’ve tried, it’s been tried many places here in Ontario … conservation authorities have some grassland ecosystems, but they’re mowing it with mowers, which sort of defeats the purpose.”

Swidersky said cattle not only maintain the grass, but are crucial in creating the grassland ecosystem for birds and responsible for creating protein on the land at the same time.

The project would be a long-term co-operative venture between the county and the Grey-Dufferin Community Pasture.

Dufferin County has goals to lower their carbon emissions, and Swidersky said this partnership would be a great addition.

“We’re not looking for a handout, we just think this would be really awesome partnership for the for the counties,” Swidersky said. “This is a 200-acre parcel that has the potential to be a great big thing for Dufferin County that people don’t see on a regular basis.”

Dufferin County council will discuss the proposal at its June 13 meeting.

Rebecca Weston, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner