Highland announced today that it would be withdrawing its application to develop a quarry in Melanchton Township. Surprising? Yes. Miracle? Perhaps.
"No one woke up this morning thinking this would happen," says Blaine van Bruggen, founder of DOT DOT DASH Communications, which organized Soupstock last month. "We're absolutely ecstatic."
Michael Stadtlander, chef at Eigensinn Farm and President of the Canadian Chefs' Congress, was equally surprised. The news, he says, took a while to sink in because of the left over "fighting spirit" he had built up from rallying against the proposal for the past two years. "It's quite nice to finally be celebrating a victory."
In the official press release, John Scherer of Highland Companies said that the company acknowledged the application doesn't have enough support from the community and government to proceed. A lack of support, activists say, that has been quite clear in the past couple of months. Anti-Megaquarry events like Soupstock and Foodstock were popping up throughout Toronto and attracted people like flies to a lamppost; Soupstock featured 200 chefs and drew a crowd of 40,000.
This coming together, farmers say, was most important in making the decision happen.
"No one could have done this alone. It was a collective effort of people writing letters to the government and promoting events to stop it. It's very encouraging to see people getting involved and speaking out on what they believe to be wrong," says David Vanderzaag, Melanchton potato farmer who did not sell to Highland and participated in Soupstock and Foodstock.
Originally, Highland wanted to blast a pit deeper than Niagara Falls in Melancthon, a rural township in Dufferin County. Something, activists say, that would have destroyed more than 2300 acres of farmland.
"The area grows 20 pounds of potato for every Torontonian, along with a whole host of other vegetable culture. If the Megaquarry had gone through, we would have lost very productive farmland," says Stadtlander.
Although a great step forward, activists say there is still lots of work to be done. Jane Pepino, board member on the Citizens' Alliance for a Sustainable Environment (CAUSE) says stopping the Megaquarry was just the tip of the iceberg. "Aggregate policy in this province needs to pay more attention to our ever decreasing agricultural and environmental resources. The Highland climb-down just might be the tipping point for this to happen," says Pepino.
CAUSE will continue to push the government to revise the Provincial Policy Statement which, according to Pepino, puts aggregate goals above all else.
"Although its necessary to recognize the importance of aggregate, it can't trump agriculture. We need more processes to recognize that food and water come before extracting rocks."