Protecting the Lake Simcoe Watershed: Environmental Practices are a Win-Win for Farmers and the Land

David Jewell has proven that having an environmental focus and running a successful farm can go hand-in-hand. He is also proof that small farms can do a lot to benefit the environment.

David has been working the land in the Kawartha Lakes area his whole life. He is a fourth-generation farmer, and very proud of his agricultural heritage. But don't think for a moment that he operates his two farms as he did 30 years ago.

"Farmers are stewards of the land, and we can no longer think that whatever we put in the ground or air just disappears," Jewell says. "We must change our thinking to have a global perspective to improve environmental and human health."

Over the past 10 years, David has taken advantage of federal and provincial funding to make positive and profitable changes to his farm. He has completed several projects already, such as:

  • Decommissioning wells that affected the local water table
  • Building two new manure storage facilities to reduce the risk of manure runoff
  • Installing eavestroughs to direct rainwater away from the barnyard and manure storage facilities, reducing the potential for water contamination
  • Digging water drainage trenches to further manage run-off by keeping the barnyard drier and cleaner
  • Fencing off access to the creek that runs through his property so that the cattle can't contribute to erosion of the riverbanks
  • Installing automatic water bowls for the herd, eliminating the need for creek access.

David is a farmer with a practical point of view. The changes he has made have actually contributed to a healthier herd and a more profitable business.

Covered manure storage with eavestroughs to direct rainwater away from the manure storage.

Figure 1. Covered manure storage with eavestroughs to direct rainwater away from the manure storage.

A win-win for farmers and the land

Because the cows no longer need to access a muddy river bank to drink, their udders are cleaner and their calves are healthier. The riverbanks have been stabilized by new, deep-rooted vegetation and the area has re-naturalized.

David now has better control over what his cows eat by restricting their access to naturalized areas. As a result, he's eliminated unexplained losses in the herd, since the animals were unknowingly consuming poison hemlock in the river bed.

Foot-rot (a bacterial infection) is also no longer an issue on his operation as the grazing pastures are now all high and dry.

Cows enjoying the shade beside the fence that restricts access to the creek.

Figure 2. Cows enjoying the shade beside the fence that restricts access to the creek.

David has made these changes using the technical guidance and funding provided through the Environmental Farm Plan's cost-share program (the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program) and the Lake Simcoe Farm Stewardship Program. The Victoria Land and Water Stewardship Council was also a partner.

Programs that share expertise and the costs of environmental improvements with farmers, make it feasible for projects like David's to be completed. More information about the programs that helped David can be found at www.ontariosoilcrop.org and at www.stewardshipontario.ca.

"Without the support from experts, I would not have known what to do, and how to do it," says David. "No matter the issue, all it took was a phone call and I found someone who was willing and able to help."

Because funding is available for the implementation of these types of changes, David has had the opportunity to improve his operations.

"The funding is available now, so it is the perfect time for farmers to make these changes to their farms," says David.

David Jewell exemplifies what farm stewardship is all about. He's proven that having an environmental focus doesn't need to compete with running a successful farm. By protecting the land and natural resources that support him, David is helping to make sure the Lake Simcoe watershed can be enjoyed by many generations.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 28 April 2011
Last Reviewed: 07 June 2011