This Land is Our Land


Artists concerned, informed and moved by the Greenbelt Legislation in Southern Ontario

The Greenbelt Legislation protects almost two million acres, making it the largest policy of it's kind in the world. In our research we predicted opposition to the legislation by developers, but we were not prepared for the resistance of farmers and growers to the law's imposed constraints on their land. In effect, telling them what they could and could not do with it.

It was in this journey that we were compelled to investigate further. We conducted research by visiting and interviewing landowners, farmers and those in the public sector. In addition, we gathered information and corresponded with many individuals and organizations; including Friends of the Greenbelt, Grape Growers of Ontario, Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and Environmental Defense. We also investigated whether the Greenbelt legislation provided protection for old growth trees, flora, migratory birds and wildlife threatened by urban sprawl.

At once hailed as the saviour by all those working to conserve and protect our natural lands, the Greenbelt legislation has become a source of frustration and anger for others. Our combined body of work challenges preconceptions and presents a diverse and compelling exploration of Ontario's Greenbelt.

Jan Yates, Michelle Teitsma, Gordon Leverton, Jefferson Campbell Cooper

Greenbelt Collective

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Artist Statement

My paintings are the culmination of an ongoing study of Greenbelt legislation imposed on farmers, including  grape and tender fruit growers. Going into this project I had intended to depict the many benefits of the Greenbelt legislation. However, after interviewing people who are closely affected by this law I have discovered that there is more to the Greenbelt act than I had anticipated.

Orest and the ruined grapes
oil on canvas
16x20in, 200

Since all of the canneries have closed or moved, the mainstay of income from farming has drastically shifted and many have been forced to sell. Growers who tried to keep farming their land- who have been doing so for generations- cannot exist solely on selling to farmers' markets. The major markets buy imported foods that are less expensive because of cheap labour overseas and warmer climates that allow for three or four harvests. That is why we can purchase food from China so easily as opposed to finding Ontario produce in our local grocery stores.

However many of the countries that we import our foods from, like Argentina, do not have strict regulations for pesticides. We do, and rightly so, but this is at the expense of the farmer.  In years past when there was an industry for Ontario farmers to sell in this country, when the canneries were in business, the farmers had to deal with the usual problems such as weather, disease and pests. But they had options in order to get them through.
One of the most devastating impacts of the Greenbelt law is that a farmer is no longer able to sever land.' Pre'- Greenbelt,  if a grower had any agricultural problems that would set them back a year or more, they had the option of severing some of their  land to sell in order to offset this loss. They would still be able to function as a farm and 'weather the storm'. Under Greenbelt restrictions they cannot do this.

There is also the issue of trying to sell their farms- to forfeit all that they have worked for and all that they intended to pass onto their children.  Land ‘protected’ under Greenbelt legislation is more challenging to sell as it puts constraints on what it’s owner can and can not do with it.

In the end, will we end up with abandoned farms and land that is fallow? There are a lot of positive sides to the Greenbelt Legislation but what is the cost to our agricultural sector? To our small family farms? To us? Do we want to eat more imported foods? Growing food locally could be more challenging in these uncertain times, especially with weather patterns changing or if countries stop importing our food supply- will we have options?
My works featured in this exhibition are portraits of the people. They are our farmers. Our grape and tender fruit growers. These are faces of families who have worked so very hard to do what they love and to make a living. I hope my paintings convey pride in these stewards of our land and I am thankful to those who have laboured  to sustain it.

oil on canvas
16x20in, 2009

Paintings for this exhibition will consist of approximately ten to twenty portraits rendered in oil on canvas sizes ranging from 16x20in to 30x40in. My intention is to portray the intimacy between the viewer and the subject of  the portrait,  inviting one to respond to the faces of the men and women who work our land. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

this Land is OUR Land


February, Greenbelt Disaster
oil on canvas
36x48in, 2010

Like the majority of Ontario residents, I was pleased with the Greenbelt Legislation when it came into effect. It was implemented to protect our natural resources and to control urban sprawl. I was all for it but like most of Ontario’s population I wasn’t aware of its impact on our agricultural industry. I live on escarpment land protected by the Greenbelt policy. Although I don’t farm, my neighbours do, and they enlightened me as to the constraints of this legislation and how it has impacted their way of life and livelihood.

It is this response that compelled me to create one series of paintings that will connect to another body of work for this exhibition. 

November, Greenbelt Disaster
Niagara Escarpment
oil on canvas
10x30 in, 2009

The  ‘Greenbelt Disaster’ series transpired after I caught sight of a hand painted sign of the same name propped up on the back of a tractor. The tractor was parked on the service road near Niagara’s QEW for all to see and behind it was a smouldering vineyard. It was a protest from local growers, whose vineyards and orchards were destroyed or left to go fallow because they could no longer afford to farm them. Since, I have visited and interviewed some of these growers and organizations and this series of paintings is a culmination of that investigation.

Works for the ‘Greenbelt Disaster’ series are primarily rendered  in oil and painted on location. For me ‘growing’ a painting this way cultivates a connection to the farmer’s  reliance on Mother Nature . Approximately ten paintings executed since Greenbelt legislation came into effect will be exhibited. Sizes of these plein air works range from 8x10in to 36x48in. 

November, Greenbelt Disaster
Niagara Escarpment
oil on canvas
16x20 in, 2009

The second body of work, titled ‘Protection’ looks into maintaining ecological integrity within  conflicting laws concerning public use of Greenbelt spaces. On one hand, organizations including Friends of the Greenbelt and AGCare, campaign for outdoor public activities for all Ontario residents to enjoy such as 'canoeing and kayaking, hiking, camping, bird watching, biking, trail riding, photography, dog walking, skiing, running and walking.'  On the other hand, a policy decision aimed to enhance agricultural land protection and enforce provincial parks as public spaces is now at risk. The same government that created the Greenbelt land protection for the public to enjoy proposes to extend private and commercial land leases. This will undermine park protection, and extend unlimited private and privileged access to ecologically sensitive provincial parks to only a few individuals at the exclusion of all other Ontario residents. Such is the Greenbelt Dichotomy.

The  ‘Protection’ project will comprise of encaustic paintings and field boxes,  where migratory birds and their habitat are the primary focus. I am hoping to complete a series of at least five by exhibition deadline.

about the artist

Since moving back to Canada from Southern California in 1995,  Jan Yates has been elected as a member of the Society of Canadian Artists and Landscape Artists International. Her work is held in collections throughout North America, Ireland, Italy, France, England and Australia and she has been awarded several grants from the Ontario Arts Council.

Yates has also garnered recognition from selected juried exhibitions and was recently awarded a residency from the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland.

For the past decade Jan has been compelled to create work directly from the land. Inspired by Canada's Emily Carr, she
constructs and paints  plein air in order to engage in an intimate dialogue with the natural world. She examines the correlation between her own practice and the cycle of harvest- each having faith in what the land will give. Protection and the importance of maintaining ecological integrity concerning protected land also informs her work.

Jan Yates has been an influential figure in the regional art scene, contributing her time and ideas to many community endeavours. Currently the artist is documenting the impact of Greenbelt legislation on agricultural land in Southern Ontario. Yates is also expanding her
investigations to include rural communities outside of Canada. Past ventures encompass the Niagara Wine Region Painters' Alliance travelling exhibition series and mentoring at-risk youth for community art projects. She continues to teach painting and her work is represented by  the Jordan Art Gallery, of which she is a partner

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Farmers Fleeing Ontario's Greenbelt



With interest we read your article. Our family is a 4th generation farm operation.

We are located on Reg 81 - the "wine" route, just east of Jordan. Our houses sit on the escarpment overlooking our 42 acre farm. With heartache we are watching the demise of our farm. We do not want to go out of business, because we love what we are doing, however we lost our sales when Cadbury closed several years ago. Yes, we had only labrusca grapes, and now the only market available for us is New York. The Grape Growers marketing board encouraged us several years ago to replant with vinifera grapes, but we chose not to. We would have been in debt, with also no sale for the wine grapes.

So over the last 2 years we have been removing our vineyards in order to be eligible for the measily 1600.00 an acre pull out program. So what do we look at out our front window? About 21 acres of grapes still in the ground, surrounded by open land covered with weeds. Our farm was our pride and joy and something for our children to take over, however they are both working elsewhere, and we have been forced to put our farm up for sale along with many of our neighboors. Now we wait for all those vultures out there hoping to pick up a deal on a farm going cheap!

Yes, our farm was meant to eventually allow us to retire comfortably, however after working as a full time farmer since he has been 16, now my husband at the age of 59 will have to join the work force- and there are no jobs in this area that will support us year round.

Come and sit on our hill top and take in the view- it will make you ask yourself what good the greenbelt has done for this family!

Eileen Hildenbrandt

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

'The Greenbelt disaster is a response by a group of large grape growers who

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Places to Grow = Places to Sprawl

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Greenbelt Disaster

oil on canvas

Smouldering anger in the vineyard

Posted By Monique Beech, Standard Staff

Updated 1 month ago

Greenbelt Disaster

oil on canvas