In Retrospect – Summer 2023

On our 30th anniversary, we dig into our archives to reflect on the recurring themes of aggregates and agriculture.

June 16, 2023 | | Environment

This year In The Hills celebrates its 30th anniversary. To mark the occasion, in each issue of 2023, we’re digging into archives to take a look back at some of the themes that have populated our pages over the past three decades – stories that reflect how the pleasures and concerns of our special countryside community have evolved over a generation.

You can click on the images below to go to the full story and read more.


Thirty years ago, a casual observer might not have been faulted for thinking farming was a dying industry in the hills. But much has changed since then. Not only has a host of new young farmers started farm-to-table operations, but industrial farming has likewise been reinvigorated by new technology, the push for food sovereignty and an emphasis on land sustainability.

1995 – A Dairy Farmer’s Tale

“Dairy farmer Art Bracken stops the tractor at the end of his long farm lane to greet the mail carrier. He sifts through the mail she hands him. ‘All junk mail,’ he says with disgust. But one envelope catches his eye.

He opens it and scans the contents: ‘Oh, lordy, another Jersey sale. Another farmer’s selling out.’ Art shakes his head, not so much over the unstable economics of farming, but because the letter brings another sign that a way of life is slowly slipping away.”

2005 – The Farm Crisis

“One might describe the Ontario farm crisis thus: A customer puts $1.35 on a grocery counter for a loaf of bread. Powerful food retailers, processors, and grain companies take $1.30, leaving the farmer a nickel. Powerful energy, fertilizer, chemical, and machinery companies take six cents out of the farmer’s pocket. Taxpayers return the penny.”

The Farm Crisis was covered in two feature articles – Global Problem and Local Solutions – in our Spring 2005 issue. Click here to read the full PDF from Summer 2005.

2021 – Regenerative Agriculture Puts The Soil First

“‘Healthy soil is so much more resistant to extreme weather events such as drought and heavy rain,’ [Jamie Richards] says, explaining that a thriving and diverse biomass is like a giant sponge, able to absorb excessive rain and hold moisture during dry spells.” Click here to read more from Spring 2021.

2021 – Farmers At The Table

“Bert Tupling: Educate the consumer about what she’s buying. She’s not buying by the penny. She’s buying by quality. I’d like to say to the consumer, ‘Would you please verify where that product comes from? If you have to have it, go ahead and buy it, but here’s a local product that we feel is superior – and pay me accordingly.'” Click here to read more from Autumn 2021.

Aggregate Mining

As another aggregate battle brews in Caledon, opponents of the Votorantim blasting quarry might well take heart from previous epic showdowns fought and won in Headwaters. The battles over the Rockfort quarry in Caledon and the mega quarry in Melancthon were prolonged and costly, but in the end it was the never-say-die citizens’ coalitions who prevailed.

2009 – Day of Reckoning

“It doesn’t take a PhD to recognize that as long as the province continues to push for local supply while encouraging population growth, pressure to approve applications such as Rockfort, despite its environmental and social impacts, will continue to mount.” Click here to read the full PDF of the issue from Spring 2009.

2009 – High Stakes In The High County

“Cropland, aggregate, rail, water, wind. It’s hard to imagine a list more defining of the preoccupations of our times. But what happens when all those elements converge in one community, courtesy of one developer? Is it a bright vision of a sustainable future, or crass ‘rural blockbusting’ set to devastate farmland and decimate a community? In Melancthon, the battle lines are drawn.” Click here to read the full PDF from Autumn 2009.

2011 – Birth of a Protest

“It’s as if by dropping the spectre of a quarry on this place, this magical high point of southern Ontario from which rivers flow south and north to the Great Lakes, and deeming it to have a sparse rural population and no features worthy of protection, [The] Highland [Companies] started a wave of land-love and moral outrage that swept all the way to Queen’s Park and shows no sign of slowing down.” Click here to read more from Summer 2011.

2014 – Dufferin’s New Landlord

“Local residents, understandably suspicious of yet another investment company buying up land in the area, waited for the other shoe to drop. After all, Highland [Companies] had made its first purchases in 2006 and had taken nearly three years to fully reveal its quarry plans. Bonnefield Financial’s intentions, however, seem pure. The company’s stated goal – ‘to preserve farmland for farming’ – seems to signal a happy ending to the famous fight to stop the mega quarry.” Click here to read more from Spring 2014.

2022 – Pit by Pit

“Dreading the behemoth bearing down on his community, [resident David Sylvester] says, ‘When there is a hard application with all the devastating details before us, it will feel like a tsunami, especially for those who weren’t prepared for the gravity and immensity of this project.'” Click here to read more from Autumn 2022.

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