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Central Experimental Farm



Photo by Andrew Power

Why it matters

A rare example of a farm within a city, the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) was established in 1886 as an agricultural and scientific research centre. In recognition of its historical, cultural and scientific significance—and to protect it from encroachment and inappropriate development—it was designated a National Historic Site in 1998. The accompanying Management Plan and Commemorative Integrity Statement identify the national heritage value of the Farm in terms of its history, contributions to Canadian science and farming, overall design, research fields and historic landscape elements.

As a cultural landscape, the CEF is significant for its ongoing research on long-term climate change and soil integrity, its extensive contributions to agricultural research, and as a symbol of the central role agriculture has played in shaping Canada.

To this day, the Farm remains an open-air laboratory focused on long-term experiments in agriculture.

Photo by Joyce Lundrigan via Wikipedia Commons

Why it’s endangered

On November 3, 2014, the federal government announced it would be severing 60 acres of the northwest corner of the Farm to be leased to the Ottawa Hospital for the development of a future hospital campus. This block of land represents close to 20% of the total useable crop research area on the Farm and will include fields that have been in continuous use for experimentation since 1886.

The severance runs contrary to the Management Plan, and was made without consulting the Central Experimental Farm Advisory Council, a body created to advise the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on the implementation of the Management Plan and engage the public in the evolution of the Farm.  

Photo by Steve Colwill

Where things stand

The scientific and heritage communities have been actively advocating for a reversal of the decision to sever this nationally important scientific landscape, which will threaten the long-term vitality and health of the Farm as a cultural heritage landscape. Advocates include Heritage Ottawa, the Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital, the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and the National Trust for Canada, along with many concerned individual residents and scientists. 

UPDATE: In November 2015, the National Trust for Canada joined the Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada, a group comprised of 50 heritage advocates and agricultural and climate change scientists, in calling on ministers Lawrence MacAulay, Catherine McKenna and Mélanie Joly to revisit the land transfer to the Ottawa Hospital.

During Question Period in January 2016, Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, told reporters that she has “concerns” over the land transfer, saying that it is “not too late” to revisit the decision.