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ClearWater Farm project to stimulate economy, bring jobs to Georgina
July 13, 2015
By Heidi Riedner

It will be a new lease on life for a $3.2-million prime piece of real estate formerly known as the Reed Farm/Sedore property, acquired by the town in 2013.

The Ontario Water Centre got the keys to a portion of the indirect lakefront property on Lake Drive in Willow Beach after Georgina council unanimously signed off on a five-year lease for an eight-acre parcel of the former Sedore property June 24.

It brings to fruition at least one element of a lengthy public debate over the future vision for the property since the town purchased it in two separate real estate transactions between 2012 and 2013.

The eight-acre parcel is being rechristened as the ClearWater Farm and is being described by the OWC as a community-based social enterprise to stimulate jobs and the local economy, provide affordable learning opportunities, demonstrate water-wise techniques and celebrate “field to fork” culinary arts.

“Water and food are 21st century frontiers that, together, can help Georgina become a pillar of the local food economy,” OWC chairperson Annabel Slaight said.

“Few people realize farming uses 76 per cent of the world’s fresh water. What better place for thinking freshly about food and water and growing new ideas that hold promise for the entire region?”

Those long-term visionary pillars are being supported by the more practical beans accounted for in the OWC's business plan, which was presented to council earlier this month.

It outlined how $3.4 million would be raised/invested over the next five years to build a community resource that will create 12 full-time and 16 part-time jobs, generate $1.32 million per year in economic activity in Georgina and support a variety of community building and sustainability enhancing benefits for the town.

Under the terms of the lease agreement inked last week, however, the Farm committed to creating at least eight full-time jobs and contributing $600,000 to the Georgina economy within the first five years of operation.

It must also raise $1 million from third parties within two years for capital improvements, as well as bring all water, sewer, electrical, fire and security systems for its portion of the property online.

In 10 years, the Water Centre hopes to have helped Georgina become a quality of life destination that demonstrates how communities can thrive in harmony with nature, its executive director Colin Dobell said.

“Our success will be the town’s success. Our aim is for Georgina residents to see the town’s acquisition of this farm as a remarkable benefit to the whole community.”

More immediately, Georgina residents will have access to the farm property and 20 hours of free programming every quarter when the Farm is open to the public in 2016 under the terms of the lease.

The Centre has also partnered with 10Fold Farms.

The Waubaushene-based farm, with a four-year track record in small plot, regenerative agriculture and local food market development, will oversee ClearWater's development, knowledge sharing and partnership programs, according to OWC executives.

ClearWater's food processing activities will launch later this year, with ClearWater and Ladies of the Lake-branded products being sold locally and into the GTA, with proceeds going to help Ontario’s lakes and rivers.

Sutton chef and owner of Cori's CafĂ©, Cori Doern, will lead ClearWater’s food processing operations.

“ClearWater represents a true win-win situation for farmers, consumers and people like me, who love good, fresh, locally grown food," Doern said.

For its part, the town recognizes the importance of partnerships in bringing about change and building a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable community, Mayor Margaret Quirk said.

“Building partnerships is key as we drive economic development in Georgina," she says. "We have reviewed the business plan as presented by The Ontario Water Centre and this project is closely aligned with the goals and objectives of the town’s socioeconomic strategy. The plan focuses on the environment as an economic engine for Georgina, with a goal of creating jobs and having an economic impact on the community."

Between 2012 and 2013, the town purchased a 4.7-acre parcel of the Reed Farm/Sedore property, containing the farmhouse and out buildings, as well as a strip of indirect lakefront, for $1.3 million, as well as a remaining 28-acre parcel of agricultural farmland on the same property for $1.9 million.

The land area containing the farmhouse is subject to further consideration under the terms of the recently completed lease, according to the town.

In addition, about two acres of lawn area to the east of the farmhouse and the shoreline property is being retained by the town.

One of the last untouched shorelines on Lake Simcoe, it is not part of the land parcel being leased to the OWC, however, the OWC has stated in the future it may be possible to work with the town, the LSRCA 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 remaining 21-acre balance of the property is being farmed for cash crops under a five-year lease with a local farmer.