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Study says Pickering Airport lands should be returned to farming, tourism
Enormous economic opportunity for agriculture and agri-tourism
April 5, 2018
Simon Martin


Close to 50 years after the Pickering Airport land was expropriated from farmers in Durham and York Region, there could be movement to return the land to its farming roots.

A much-anticipated Agricultural Economics Study, commissioned by Land Over Landings, was released on April 3. It delivered recommendations that the best future for the remaining Pickering Federal Lands is agriculture and agri-tourism. According to the study, these activities will safeguard the natural capital, create jobs, and quickly return prosperity to the lands after a near half-century of decline under the cloud of a potential future airport.

Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie, who described the study as having “clarity and punch”, was host of the event. Study consultants Dr. Atif Kubursi and Dr. John Groenewegen presented their findings to a large crowd of area MPs and municipal stakeholders; leading food, farming, and environmental NGOs; farmers; educators; and local business owners.

The study’s data analysis shows the great economic potential of the lands, especially if the ongoing threat of an airport is removed and farmers are granted long-term 30 year leases. The consultants were clear: “Uncertainty is typically considered the nemesis of investment.”

“The findings are tremendously exciting,” Mary Delaney, chair of Land Over Landings said. “We can see how real jobs would start to be created almost immediately, and how the area could flourish. It’s a breath of fresh air after more than four decades of nothing but promises of jobs at a never-never airport.”

According to the study, returning lands to productive farmland will trigger immediate jobs and long-term economic activity as leaseholders build new homes and outbuildings, upgrade existing buildings, replace or add field-tile drainage, fencing, wells, etc. An estimated 621 jobs would be created in York-Durham during the upgrade period, and investment expenditures are estimated to reach $58 million.

The potential output from more-diverse, higher-value agricultural production (e.g., fruit, vegetables, livestock, poultry) is calculated to be over $3,500/acre, a significant increase over today’s $563/acre from mostly feed corn, soy, and wheat!

The study shows that tourism has the potential to easily surpass the economic output of the farming sector. The combined impacts of agriculture and tourism can create $130 million in local expenditures, with $221 million across the province.