ALUS Stewardship Route

Any tour of Norfolk County’s unique routes and trails reveal two distinctive legacies that have shaped this part of Carolinian Canada. 

Grasses and marshland on an Alternative Land Use Services demonstration site.

On the one hand, there is the rich history of agriculture, supported by fertile soils, a favourable climate, a diverse set of crops and specialty products, and a resilient farming community.  On the other hand, there is intertwined an equally rich history of land stewardship and conservation. The sites that make up this roadside ALUS tour speak to these rich legacies and demonstrate how farmers in Norfolk County are growing food while simultaneously restoring the natural environment for all to benefit.

Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) is an innovative, community-based approach to engaging farmers and ranchers in the production of nature’s benefits, such as clean air, clean water, and habitat for wildlife and species at risk, alongside the production of food. As one of the largest groups of private landowners in Ontario, farmers are in a unique position to provide solutions to some of the most pressing conservation challenges of our time, including climate change and biodiversity loss. ALUS builds on the existing expertise and stewardship ethic of farmers by providing project start-up assistance, technical expertise and support, and incentive payments. ALUS sees the production of agricultural crops and livestock as compatible with the conservation and restoration of native habitats and rewards farmers for land management practises that create productive agricultural systems and healthy countrysides.

Gaining increasing attention from conservation, industry and government sectors, not to mention amongst farming, rural, and near-urban communities, the ALUS approach had in beginnings in a pilot project right here in Norfolk County. Since its inception in 2008, Norfolk ALUS has partnered with over 130 farm families in the county to implement over 400 restoration projects on farms. With funding from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Norfolk ALUS has been able to expand annually to partner with more farm families. As of 2012, fully 10% of farms in Norfolk County – Ontario’s Garden – are participating in the ALUS program, together restoring over 1000 acres of marginal farmland and significantly impacting habitat for wildlife and species at risk, as well as water quantity and quality in the Great Lakes catchment of Lake Erie.

The farm projects featured in this tour represent some of the best projects completed to date, and include created and enhanced wetlands, windbreaks and habitat corridors, tallgrass prairie restoration and tree planting projects. 

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