Turbines are perfect partners for traditional farming

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Farmers are the forgotten and essential partners in wind development. We should not overlook their contribution. Without farmers to lease their land to developers and operators there would be no wind plants in southern Ontario where the demand and the need is for clean, renewable energy.

It is not easy being a farmer in Ontario these days. First of all, farmers are the overloaded backbone of Ontario’s food chain.  They’re over-worked by frequently having to hold down two jobs to maintain the family farm. Every year they bet that farm as they plant their crops. If they lose the crop, they’re in danger of losing the farm. In contrast, consumers go to their grocery stores and ignore where their food comes from or how fragile their local farm economies are. These farmers are typically an extension of many generations on their family’s land. In Ontario, many farms are now in their fourth or fifth generation. Unfortunately, they’ve been required to sever off an acre or two of their forefathers’ land to weekenders. Ironically, those weekenders are now dictating what they can do with their land. Many farmers live in areas where the wind resource is plentiful and where wind energy revenue has real economic benefit compared to traditional suppliers of electricity. When they lease their lands for wind energy harvesting, they provide a benefit to all of us and a sorely needed source of cash to support their farming operation. The lease income can literally save the family farm by covering occasional crop losses. The income also allows one of the parents to stay home to care for the children. Turbines are perfect partners for traditional farming. They don’t reduce any of the farm’s agricultural output. The turbine infrastructure (access roads, the turbine foundation and distribution lines) require less than 1 or 2 per cent of acreage. Frequently, the land for the turbines and access roads was not even used for farming and sometimes, with proper planning, the infrastructure for turbines can make parts of farms more accessible than they were before. Farms with turbines are good partners in Ontario’s rural agricultural communities. Farmers who lease their land for turbines are providing additional tax revenue at no cost to the community. This revenue improves roads and supports amenities like libraries. And, because they are farmers, if they have turbines they tend to spend what they earn from the turbines in their own community and that makes the local economy stronger. We could go on about the benefits that farmers who lease their land for turbines bring to their community: it makes them “green”, it improves the local electrical system which, in turn, provides new opportunities for economic development, etcetera, etcetera. If this is so, why are some municipal councils in rural Ontario opposing wind turbines. Who can say but don’t blame the farmers. They are farmers! They know a good deal when they see one. So far over 1000 of them in Ontario are voting with their property, their businesses and their families. We should all listen to them and we should all thank them for using their land to make our lives better. – Malcolm Hamilton, Roger Short and Robert Knox – Ontario Highlands Friends of Wind