The Rural and Agricultural System is comprised of rural and prime agricultural lands as well as businesses important to the viability of the agricultural sector. Halton’s rural countryside is defined by outstanding soils and a thriving natural environment. Halton’s agricultural sector is home to a wide range of farming types including horse farms, plant nurseries, hay producers, oilseeds operations, livestock operations, fruit and vegetable growers, and many others, and is nurtured by a community of active farmers.
The Region is currently working on an update to the Official Plan. The Regional Official Plan helps to support a Rural and Agricultural System that nurtures economic growth, secures access to food and helps ensure environmental sustainability. To build on these goals, Halton Region is consulting on how best to implement changes in Provincial direction through the Rural and Agricultural System Discussion Paper. Through the Official Plan update, the Region is exploring opportunities to strengthen the Rural and Agricultural System. To find out more about the rural and agricultural system and land use planning in Halton, have a look at the Rural and Agricultural System Discussion Paper.
Only 5% of Canada’s land base is free of severe constraints for agricultural production, and Halton contains some of the best of these soils.
In the current Regional Official Plan, Rural and Agricultural areas are planned to support a viable agricultural industry and preserve the open-space character and landscape of Halton’s non-urban areas. A strong Rural and Agricultural System is vital in order to:
Halton is now consulting on key areas that could help shape the Rural and Agricultural system according to these goals and objectives.
In combination with the Natural Heritage System and mineral resource extraction areas, the Agricultural and Rural System makes up 70% of Halton’s total area.
* Census of Agriculture statistics do not include gross farm receipts for mushroom production.
The Province released Agricultural System mapping (external link) in February 2018, which identifies the extent of prime agricultural areas in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including in Halton Region. This is the first time that the Province has mapped a prime agricultural area for the Greater Golden Horseshoe area and the Region is required to incorporate it into the existing Official Plan Prime Agricultural Mapping. Prime agricultural lands, as part of the Agricultural System, are a limited resource in Canada and represent the best soils for agricultural production. Mapping and designation of prime agricultural areas allows for the protection of these lands. Provincial data indicates that an additional amount of Halton’s general Agricultural Area could be designated as prime agricultural area. The map shows the Proposed Agricultural System (PDF file) in the updated Official Plan.
For proposed changes to the Natural Heritage System, please refer to the Natural Heritage Discussion Paper.
The Province now allows municipalities to permit an expanded range of agriculture-related uses in prime agricultural areas with guidance provided in the Guidelines on Permitted Uses in Ontario’s Prime Agricultural Areas document (external link). This allows businesses that support agriculture, such as farmers’ markets, farm suppliers and food processors, to be introduced to Halton Region’s prime agricultural areas as the definition for agriculture-related uses has expanded.
Agricultural research centre
Processing of produce grown in the area (e.g., cider-making, cherry pitting, canning, quick-freezing, packing)
Farm equipment repair shop
Farmers' market primarily selling products gorwn in the area
Grain dryer farm operations in the area
The Province has also introduced a new group of permissions for prime agricultural areas called “on-farm diversified uses”. These policies allow farms to explore new options for generating income to help support agriculture for the long term. Potential uses include bed and breakfasts, cafes, antique shops, home occupations and home industries. Agri-tourism is a type of on-farm diversified use. Agri-tourism, including on-farm events, may also be considered.
Home occupations (e.g., professional office, bookeeper, land surveyor, art studio, hairdresser, massage therapist, daycare, veterinary clinic, kennel, classes or workshops)
Agri-tourism and recreation uses (e.g., farm vacation suite, bed and breakfast, hay rides, petting zoo, farm-themed playground, horse trail rides, corn maze, seasonal events, equine events, winetasting, retreats, zip lines)
Home industries (e.g., sawmill, welding or woodworking shop, manufacturing/fabrication, equipment repair, seasonal storage of boat or trailers)
Retail uses (e.g., farm market, antique business, seed supplier, tack shop)
Café/small restaurant, cooking classes, food store (e.g., cheese, ice cream)
Large areas appropriate for cemeteries are rare within settlement areas. Prime agricultural areas are intended to prioritize agricultural activities that support the agricultural system; however, there is ongoing pressure to permit cemeteries. Careful consideration must be given to balance these needs.
An Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) is a study that is used to identify the possible impacts of new non-agricultural uses on an agricultural system. Halton Region is considering what additional circumstances should require AIAs.
Special needs housing provides accommodation for residents who require alternative care or assistance to live independently. The current ROP does not address special needs housing outside of urban areas. Further consideration is appropriate.
The Regional Official Plan shapes how and where Halton grows—and your input is valuable as we make these decisions for our community!
To help you learn more about this topic, you can read our Rural and Agricultural System Discussion Paper (PDF file). The paper provides more detailed information about how climate change relates to the Regional Official Plan.
The community is invited to share its feedback by October 30, 2020 in two ways:
In 2019, Halton marked the 40th anniversary of the inception of the Agricultural Advisory Committee. It is the longest standing municipal agricultural committee in Ontario.
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