Kitchener-Waterloo·Video

His Wilmot farm is not for sale but the region wants to buy part of it anyway

Adam van Bergeijk of Wilmot Township is in danger of being forced to sell about a third of his farm to the regional government, which has not provided much information about what it would do with the land after purchasing it.

Adam van Bergeijk among 6 owners trying to protect land from being expropriated

closeup of man with hat sitting outside
Adam van Bergeijk owns Mountainoak Cheese and runs a dairy farm in Wilmot Township that is at risk of being expropriated by the region.  (Aastha Shetty/CBC)

A farmer from Wilmot Township is joining his neighbours in pushing back against plans by the region to buy 770 acres (about 312 hectares) of their land.

Adam van Bergeijk has owned and lived on Mountainoak dairy farm with his family in Wilmot Township since 1996. Now, he's in danger of being forced to sell about a third of his farm to the regional government, which has not provided much information about what it would to with the land after purchasing it.

"I don't know where we can get land and we need it to feed our cows," he said.

"Can we [grow] crop this year? When is it all going to happen? We don't know."

WATCH | Dairy farmer speaks on 'insecurity' of not knowing whether he'll lose a chunk of land: 

This Wilmot farmer could lose almost a third of his property to land expropriation

1 month ago
Duration 3:38
The region's controversial plan to buy farmland in Wilmot Township is raising concerns for farmers who will be directly impacted by potential land expropriation. Adam van Bergeijk of Mountainoak Farm says he could lose almost a third of his dairy farm, which is currently home to 600 cows. He is among six landowners and many more advocates who are calling for the lands not to be expropriated by the regional government. The Region of Waterloo has said the land is needed for future industrial use.

He said much of the information is being kept behind closed doors and it's making farmers worried about the long-term health of their farms.

The Region of Waterloo has said the land is needed for future industrial use.

"It would be nice to know what is going on ... because if there is a big factory with all kind of possible pollution or stray voltage, we don't know what's coming."

Van Bergeijk is among six landowners and several advocates calling for the lands not to be expropriated by the regional government.

man stands with cheese wheels
Van Bergeijk has owned and lived on Mountainoak dairy farm with his family in Wilmot Township since 1996. The family sells a number of dairy products, including milk, quark and cheese. (Aastha Shetty/CBC)

Chambers of commerce show region support

A group made up of presidents of local chambers of commerce, economic development, Communitech and Explore Waterloo Region have penned an open letter supporting the Region of Waterloo's plans to purchase farmland in Wilmot Township for an industrial project.

The group, dubbed BESTWR, wrote in its April 5 letter that "this is a critical time" in the region "that requires bold action."

Ian McLean, chair of BESTWR and also president and CEO of the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, said the land is needed because without it the region could miss out on opportunities to grow.

I just question the methodology and the process with all of this and the uprooting. People's livelihoods are at stake in this.- Jeff Donkersgoed, Waterloo Regional Labour Council

One opportunity McLean pointed to was Maple Leaf Foods, which in 2012 announced it would build its newest facility in Hamilton.

"We lost our Schneiders plants here in Waterloo region because we were not co-ordinated and we did not have one site that was suitable for what Maple Leaf Foods was looking for," he said.

CBC News reached out to Schneiders to confirm the reasons their new facility was not built in Waterloo region, but the company declined to comment on the specifics.

The letter was also signed by the CEOs of the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Explore Waterloo Region and Communitech.

Advocates push back

Landowners and farmers have started a petition on the website Change.org that now has more than 28,800 signatures. They have also appeared before regional and township councils and have held local meetings with MPPs.

Jeff Donkersgoed, first vice-president of the Waterloo Regional Labour Council, also wrote an open letter to regional chair Karen Redman earlier this month saying the situation needs to be more open.

"I totally get that we want industry to come to Waterloo region, good sustainable jobs. It's something as a labour council we definitely want," he said.

"I just question the methodology and the process with all of this and the uprooting. People's livelihoods are at stake in this."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aastha Shetty

CBC journalist

Aastha Shetty can be reached via email aastha.shetty@cbc.ca or by tweeting her at @aastha_shetty

With files from Karis Mapp, Kate Bueckert