Your Questions Answered
…about the farm, the Town’s plans, and the Water Centre’s plans:
How will ClearWater at the old Reed Farm stimulate the economy?
The farm will generate direct jobs through educational programs, farming and food production. There will be a focus on youth and on developing their skills and aptitudes.
What is the timeline for this farm?
The Ontario Water Centre, the educational charity behind the project, started the farm in August 2015. Programming is gearing up while fund-raising is ongoing. About $8 million will be needed in all for operation start-up and building programs.
If the Town is leasing property to the Ontario Water Centre are there other arrangements like this out there?
There any many projects across the country that are the result of not-for-profit and public partnerships. Examples of such projects include housing co-ops to those with similar foci such as the Evergreen Brickworks and the Wychwood Barns in Toronto.
Locally there is the Cultural Centre in Aurora and the Georgina Trades Training Inc. Collaborative agreements like this arise when it is deemed that a charitable organization and a government entity such as a municipality, can deliver greater results together than on their own.
Are you competing with other organizations or farmers?
We are not in competition with others, but rather we are here to help the economy and the environment through significant collaboration. We hope to shine a light on the value of farming that will, in turn, generate greater interest in local produce.
How does this farm promote water stewardship?
Everything we do on land is connected to the water. The new view of sustainability is linking economy, environmental work and community wellbeing. This is called nexus thinking, and food is a catalyst. As 76% of the world’s fresh water is used for farming, what better place could there be than a farm to grow new ideas?
ClearWater will be a low-maintenance, eco-friendly “campus” where fun is an essential ingredient for success. Everything on the farm will look and feel good and inspire new ways of doing things that will extend beyond the farm.
Will the farm have a farmers’ market?
When we get going there will be a small market on site. The farm will be open for shopping most days once the food hub is built in 2018 or 2019. The food hub will also contain a commercial kitchen and an educational space on the second floor.
What do you think the neighbours feel about what you are doing?
The more people know about the unique experiences we will be creating, the more questions and interest in our project we receive. People seem genuinely excited.
I live nearby yet I don’t know anything about what is going on!
Over 10,000 people have been involved in media efforts to encourage interest: radio ads, posters and invitation cards plus social media. So word is getting out. We are always seeking better ways to connect with people.
What do Ladies of the Lake have to do with ClearWater Farm?
Ladies of the Lake helped found the Ontario Water Centre, the educational charity launched in 2012 linking the promotion of water stewardship to economic and social benefits. The farm is a flagship project to do this.
What happened to Ladies of the Lake?
This volunteer organization ran for 10 years and accomplished many educational projects, leveraging $6 million from the proceeds of the calendars which earned $500,000. Ladies of the Lake wanted to see something more permanent to do similar, even bigger things to help Lake Simcoe and the people in this area and to partner in more impactful, longer term initiatives — like this demonstration farm.
What is happening to the rest of the land?
We occupy 10 of 30 acres of the old Reed Farm. The balance is leased by the Town of Georgina to a farmer. Ultimately we hope ClearWater Farm will occupy all 30 acres.
How will you deal with bringing increased traffic to the area and parking?
We have just brought a laneway in from Metro Road so as not to disturb the peace of Lake Drive. It will be open to the public in 2108 or 2019 after some on site construction is complete. For onsite parking, we are exploring using various innovations for parking lots such as capturing rainwater – in this case from the barn, garage and farmhouse for a cistern system. We will also be demonstrating different kinds of porous surfaces.
What structures will there be?
We will be using the main floor of the farmhouse for a professional demonstration kitchen and a dining area with seating for approximately 60.
Barn and Barnyard:
Initially the barn was not going to be touched for a few years as it would be an expensive renovation. But when the barn burned down last fall (accidently by two local kids who had snuck onto the property) rebuilding was planned for 2018. See more about that at the exhibit on the site of the old barn. Insurance will help rebuild and a funding campaign of $1.5 million is getting underway for the barn and the barnyard as an area of unstructured active play for kids.
The food hub in the current blue garage will be an educational space and commercial kitchen and facilities for readying vegetables for sale to people,
Who will operate the farm?
The day-to- day working of the property will be the responsibility of a farm manager and property manager. The land will be used for a variety of collaborations with a range of organizations large and small. Sponsors and partners will be welcomed as well.
What partnerships are you considering?
We are considering all types of partnerships. We have already reached out to schools and colleges. We encourage anyone who has an idea about potential partnerships – both obvious and not so obvious – to share their thoughts.
Will renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal) projects be explored at the farm?
The biodigester is our first foray into renewable energy and educational programming about how it works. We envision more initiatives like this.
Do you plan on housing livestock in the barn?
No. It will be both a children’s learning-through- play area and an event space.
Are you still brainstorming ideas on what can happen here?
We are always brainstorming about what can happen here. But we have some roots down now – incubating new kinds of agriculture combined with food production as our means of earning our way. We always welcome input on what can happen and this will continue once we are on the farm as well. This farm is part of Georgina and it is for Georgina.
What, if any, are the obstacles to this vision?
There are likely millions of obstacles but we can’t focus on these. We are, however, being very careful about where we put our feet down as we move forward.
Will the shoreline be part of the farm? Will the lakeshore remain intact?
The lakefront is a very interesting part of this property. It looks a bit like British Columbia out there with its large rocks and trees and it is one of the last untouched shorelines on Lake Simcoe. At this time the shoreline is not part of the land parcel being leased to the Ontario Water Centre. However in the future it may be possible to work with the town and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and other agencies through the ReWilding program to explore how to leave the shoreline intact while providing greater access to connect people with Lake Simcoe.
The Ladies of the Lake, who are very involved in this project, were instrumental in the formation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan. Will there be any connection between the Ontario Water Centre and this legislation?
Lake Simcoe watershed residents are extremely fortunate to have this Act and Plan, a first in North America and also the first to bring citizens, business and government together through “shared responsibility”. The work of the Ontario Water Centre, founded by the Ladies of the Lake, is very connected to this plan, in particular the recognition that people and nature are equal partners in the future of Lake Simcoe
So what is the Ontario Water Centre anyway?
OWC is a new community organization with charitable status that envisions the entire Lake Simcoe watershed being a 21st century laboratory. It believes that greater community co-operation can brighten the future of both our waterscapes and our own lives. See more on this website, www.ontariowatercentre.ca