Eating Ottawa’s Forests and Farmland

December 8, 2016

Even in the past five years since starting Hidden Harvest, we’ve noticed that food-bearing trees & forests in Ottawa are disappearing far faster than they are being planted.

These Google Earth Timelapse videos show just how quickly our city spreads. Take a look at the changes between 1986 & 1996, then 1996 & 2006, then 2006 & 2016. What do you notice?

Sure, building houses on orchards is nothing new for our city (Charles Billings used to farm a huge orchard which is now Billings Bridge & Alta Vista); however, the act of clear-cutting the land leaving very few (if any) original trees, then re-grading the surface and re-planting non-food bearing trees is far more proliferate than it was even 20 years ago.

Before picture: “The Orchard, Coming Soon”. In the background you can see some of the one thousand, eight hundred apple trees which were planted by the Welch family of Apple Hill Fruit Farm. After picture: “The Orchard, Model Home Now Open”. In the background you can not see even a single apple tree. We were told that perhaps “a few” of the trees *might* be kept in an area designated to be a City-owned park.

Here is the time-lapse where you can see our appetite for new homes eat up fruit, vegetable and grain farms in Barrhaven:

The same happens in Greely:

One thing we have noticed is that the developments which occurred in the late 80’s & early 90’s which you see on the map took special care to preserve many more of the mature trees on the properties. Apple orchards were still developed — inspiring names like “Apple Orchard Road” & “Spartan Drive” in Greely — but the result today is that groups like ours can show up to many of those homes and harvest thousands of pounds of food from the back yards and parkland in those areas. Plus, there is still a plentiful supply left behind to nourish the local flora and fauna. Here’s a picture of the result of harvesting just one of the many back yards in that area:


Here we see forests & wetlands get gobbled up in Kanata North:

We admire the work of Dr. Yoni Freedhoff and wonder if his book would have some good tips to wean our voracious appetite to build on virgin lands.

If you’d like to see a time-lapse of your own neighbourhood, you can do that here: https://earthengine.google.com/timelapse/

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