Agriculture Runoff Working Group

Wild at Heart: ALUS Norfolk participants Kathryn and Michael Boothby are on a mission to create wildlife habitat

ALUS Norfolk helped the Boothbys create a native prairie grass buffer zone between a ravine and an agricultural field. Photo: the Boothbys.

ALUS Norfolk is a non-profit organization that works with farmers on their marginal lands to produce ecosystem services that benefit the farm and society as a whole. ALUS Norfolk participants Kathryn and Michael Boothby have incorporated wildlife corridors, erosion controls, pollinator habitat, wildlife nesting structures, and other conservation features on their cash-crop operation located within Ontario’s Priority Place – Long Point Walsingham Forest. Part of the Priority Place funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada – Canadian Wildlife Service allows ALUS Norfolk to support restoration and management of natural ecosystems, such as those on the Boothby’s farm.

One of the Boothby’s ALUS projects consists of a dug-out wetland, which they now maintain as habitat for numerous amphibian and reptile species, as well as birds. Photo: the Boothbys.

Since joining in 2012, the Boothbys have enrolled over eight of their 51-acres into the ALUS Norfolk program. Their projects produce ecosystem services such as cleaner air, cleaner water and greater biodiversity that benefit the entire community.

“Being involved with ALUS means being part of a like-minded community. You are able to learn from others, and share experiences and challenges,” says Kathryn.

One of the Boothbys ALUS projects is a dug-out wetland for amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Another – a prairie grass buffer between a ravine and agricultural field – helps mitigate erosion, reduces sediments and nutrients entering the waterway, and provides habitat for pollinators and grassland birds.

To help declining aerial insectivores, ALUS helped install two dozen nesting boxes for Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. The Boothby’s added Purple Martin housing which now supports 54 breeding pairs.

A tree swallow perches on one of two dozen nesting boxes installed through ALUS at Fairnorth Farm, one of many different types of wildlife habitat structures maintained by ALUS Norfolk participants Kathryn and Michael Boothby. Photo: the Boothbys.

Even before joining ALUS, the Boothbys worked hard to transform their property into land that also works for wildlife. Kathryn has participated on the boards of several local conservation groups. Indeed, many of their ALUS projects began with assistance from other organizations, such as Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Ontario Power Generation, Norfolk Stewardship Council, Long Point Basin Land Trust, and Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Additional projects have been supported by Carolinian Canada, Nature Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

To date over 8,000 trees have been planted. Hundreds of shrubs and wildflowers have been added, and snake nesting structures and brush and rock piles have been created and are used by at-risk reptiles and other species.

Kathryn and Michael Boothby are on a mission to create wildlife habitat on their land that benefits the natural world and ALUS Norfolk is very happy to help.

To learn more about ALUS Norfolk, contact Steph Giles, Program Coordinator at (519) 420-8127.

Wild at Heart: ALUS Norfolk participants Kathryn and Michael Boothby are on a mission to create wildlife habitat Read More »

Municipal drain maintenance to help preserve habitat

Municipal drains are a fixture of rural Ontario’s landscape and a vital element of Norfolk County infrastructure. In Norfolk County alone there are approximately 1,000 kilometers of municipal drains, servicing over 60,000 hectares of land and 24,000 residents.

Most municipal drains are constructed to improve agricultural productivity, increase drainage in specific areas, and provide a stormwater management system. By safely transporting surface and subsurface runoff from rainfall events, they also prevent flooding and reduce public health risks. All municipal drains eventually connect with rivers, streams, and lakes, which are important habitat for many endangered or protected species.

Norfolk County Drainage Services has been collaborating with the Agricultural Runoff Working Group to help maintain and restore biodiversity within the Long Point Walsingham Forest Priority Place.

The department is achieving this goal by modifying drainage practices to remove vegetation on only one side where practical during routine maintenance.  Part of the funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada – Canadian Wildlife Service is then used to restore and enhance drain corridors after the vegetation removal occurs.

Managed vegetation removal along drain corridors helps to maintain flow and access, and identify issues such as blockages or erosion. By minimizing the amount of vegetation removed and enhancing buffers in these areas erosion, sedimentation, and agricultural runoff are reduced.  This approach improves bank stability and reduces the demand for drain maintenance. It also allows for more habitat to remain intact, maintaining cover, shade, and food for fish and other species.

In recent years agencies that regulate drainage works have included additional requirements to mitigate or offset any environmental impacts. This partnership allows for some of these requirements to be fulfilled while mitigating costs that would have otherwise been assumed by stakeholders on the drainage systems.

Through this partnership, Norfolk County Drainage Services has preserved over 10 km of drain corridors and restored 20 km of maintained drain corridors across Norfolk County.

For more information or to learn about establishing buffers along the municipal drain on your property, contact Morgan Van Laeken, Drainage Program Coordinator at 519 426 5870 ext. 1118.

Municipal drain maintenance to help preserve habitat Read More »

Six generations of the Boyd family value farming as a way of life

The Boyd’s farm has been in the family since 1865, so they are familiar with the joys and challenges of farming.

Brian Boyd’s wetland being dug. After the wetland was created, the soils were seeded with a mix of native plant and tree species. Photo: ALUS Norfolk.

Brian Boyd and his son Greg are happy to collaborate with organizations such as ALUS Norfolk and Long Point Region Conservation Authority (LPRCA) to carry out land stewardship.

Brian worked with these organizations to create a wetland on the farm which was then seeded with native grasses, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs to help prevent soil loss and mitigate nutrient runoff into Lake Erie.

“I feel ALUS is well suited for my farms. The wetlands and tree planting projects make good sense on land that can’t support grain production,” says Brian. “[ALUS Norfolk] understands the importance of achieving a balance between agriculture and conservation”.

Brian’s son Greg is the sixth generation to farm on the Boyd farm, and he has also incorporated ALUS projects at his own farm. Greg is the owner of Heritage Lane Produce and can be found at numerous farmer’s markets within Norfolk and Oxford County. With the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, Greg was able to transition to customers picking up produce on a weekly basis.

Brian Boyd with his son Greg and grand kids. Greg is the sixth generation to farm on the Boyd farm and is also the owner of Heritage Lane Produce. Photo: ALUS Norfolk.

Greg has adapted to no-till planting to mitigate soil degradation caused by tillage and has widened grassed waterways to stabilize runoff.

“No-till farming combined with the waterways ability to filter water runoff means that the water entering the drainage network is now clear and free from sediment,” says Greg.

ALUS Norfolk and LPRCA are proud collaborators in the Priority Place Agriculture Runoff working group along with other organizations such as Norfolk County Drainage Services, the Canadian Wildlife Service and Carolinian Canada.

Another objective is planting cover crops on farms within the Priority Place.

“Cover crops provide lots of benefits”, according to Paul Gagnon, Lands & Waters Supervisor from LPRCA. “They can help limit the amount of erosion that occurs within a given year. They build soil health and minimize weed pressure, ultimately reducing input costs.”

Even better, there is financial incentive to sign up. If you are interested in learning more about the cover crop program or to see if you are eligible, please contact Paul Gagnon, Lands & Waters Supervisor with LPRCA at (519) 842-4242 ext. 232.

Six generations of the Boyd family value farming as a way of life Read More »

Scroll to Top