Facts & Figures
The Greater Golden Horseshoe - that area wrapping around the western end of Lake Ontario - is one of the fastest growing regions in North America. Over the next 25 years, its population is expected to increase to over 11 million in 2031 from 8.4 million in 2006. Accommodating the needs of this rapidly expanding population without sacrificing the value and character of the region’s countryside, open space and rural communities will be a significant challenge. To meet this challenge, Ontario has created the Greenbelt.
The purpose of the Greenbelt is to protect environmentally sensitive land and farmland from urban development. The Greenbelt celebrates rural life ensuring towns and villages remain intact. It is essential for providing clean air and clean water to cities. Its trees act as “lungs” for a wide area, and filter air pollution, while rivers and streams feed sources of drinking water for millions of people.
Greenbelt Facts and Figures
- The Greenbelt protects 1.8 million acres (720,000 hectares) of countryside, with farming being the dominant land use.
- The Greenbelt extends 325 kilometers from Rice Lake in Northumberland County to the Niagara River.
- The Greenbelt’s natural heritage system protects about 535,000 acres of lakes, wetlands, river valleys and forests. Habitat is protected for wildlife and endangered species within a continuous band of green countryside.
- Open space is maintained for tourism, recreation and healthy living. Over 50% of people living in central Ontario are likely to take advantage of the tourism and recreation possibilities of the Greenbelt - hiking, camping, skiing, fruit-picking, wine-tasting, holiday tours, spas and more.
- The Niagara Escarpment’s Bruce Trail is connected with the Oak Ridges Trail making it possible to hike from Rice Lake, South of Peterborough, to Queenston and up to Tobermory on Georgian Bay.
- The value of the Greenbelt's measurable non-market ecosystem service is estimated to be $2.6 billion annually, which is $3,487 per hectare.
Agriculture in the Greenbelt
- There are approximately 7,000 farms in the Greenbelt. Farming is still largely a family affair, with the majority being the sole proprietors.
- The Greenbelt preserves some of the most valuable agricultural lands in Canada, providing fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, beef, pork and poultry products and grapes for prize-winning wines.
- Specialty farms in the Greenbelt produce everything from sheep and lambs, mushrooms, maple syrup, and horticultural goods (flowers and plants).
- On a regional basis, Greenbelt farms are smaller than the average Ontario farm by 33%, but per hectare the lands are more productive producing 12% more in gross income.
- The Greenbelt produces over one quarter of Ontario’s apples (26.57%); 87.63% of Ontario’s peaches; 50.04% of Ontario’s sour cherries; over 85% of Ontario’s grapes; and 42.59% of Ontario’s raspberries.
- The Holland Marsh is Ontario’s vegetable basket. Main crops are carrots and onions. Other crops include lettuce, celery, potatoes, cauliflower, beets, radish and parsnips. Enough carrots are grown in the Holland Marsh to provide every man, women and child in Canada with four pounds every year.
- There are approximately 1,285 cattle ranches and farms in the Greenbelt, which account for about 16-18% of the farms, with the highest concentration in Durham Region (38%).
- The Greenbelt protects about 100,000 acres of the Niagara Peninsula Tender Fruit and Grape Area. The Niagara Peninsula is the world’s largest and best producers of icewine.
- Niagara’s 2.1 million tender fruit trees (peaches, pears, plums, cherries, grapes) produce about 800,000 baskets of fruit that would stretch along the QEW from Kingston to Niagara Falls.