Norfolk County has always been a leader in conservation. We are located in a part of Canada referred to as the Carolinian Life Zone.The zone contains the highest number of plant and animal species than any other vegetation zone in Canada while taking up less than 1% total land area.
Within this Life Zone is Longpoint Walsingham Forest (LPWF), which as of August 2017, the Government of Canada selected as a Priority Place of Ontario for species at risk conservation. This land area, contained within Norfolk County, is immensely rich in natural wonders. Our land cover here in LPWF is made up of forests, beaches and coastal dunes, tall-grass communities, wetlands and agriculture. Spending time in this ecoregion, you can’t help but realize just how important its conservation is.
What Makes Norfolk County a Priority Place?
- High concentration of biodiversity (highest in Canada); over 80 at-risk species
- Significant threats to biodiversity
- Highly engaged local conservation community
Biodiversity is a term used broadly to describe the enormous variety and variability of life on Earth. It can also be used more specifically to refer to the species in one region or ecosystem. An ecosystem is made of plants, animals and other organisms found in one place; and how they interact with each other and their environment. For an environment to thrive, there must be a balance between species and preservation of habitat within that ecosystem.
(Sigvaldason, Amy, “Long Point Walsingham Forest Priority Place: Ontario’s Priority Place for Species at Risk Conservation” Environment and Climate Change Canada publication, May 2021)
We as people, are as much a part of, and responsible for, our ecosystem as any other organism. We must do our part to maintain balance and diversity of species, and respect and conserve our land and resources if we are to benefit. These benefits include clean air, water, fertile land and healthy soil to grow nutritious food.
Here in LPWF, we have a Monarch Butterfly Reserve, Ramsar site (wetlands of international importance), and the first globally significant Important Bird Area in Canada with over 400 species reported (Norfolk Forest Complex). We have the longest freshwater sand spit in the world. Long Point is internationally recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s intent is to encourage local communities to combine the conservation of biodiversity with sustainable community development.
Long Point World Biosphere President, Rick Levick says we should be proud to be selected as a ‘Priority Place’ as it recognizes this community’s long history of conservation that goes back more than a century to the founding of Canada’s first forestry station in St Williams. He also emphasizes the importance of “fostering collaboration and cooperation among the many groups that recognize and value this area’s natural heritage.” LPWF has retained much of its natural integrity due to the conservation and stewardship, spearheaded by private landowners and other members of the community.
What the conservation efforts will look like:
“The vision for the LPWF is to create healthy, resilient, and connected ecosystems that support biodiversity, productive landscapes, and a thriving community.” In 2018, The federal government invested $1.35 billion, in collaboration with federal and territorial governments, to support 11 priority places within Canada. The collaborative has developed an Integrated Conservation Action Plan through restoration, education and outreach initiatives.
We are addressing threats that include:
- Land use changes and development
- Habitat loss, fragmentation
- Invasive species eg Phragmites
- Changing climate and extreme weather conditions
- Garbage and litter
Where do we fit in at Charlotteville?
Playing our Part:
Our property is unique here at Charlotteville Brewing Co. We appreciate it for its mosaic of habitats, which affords us a versatile approach to our conservation and sustainability efforts. We take responsibility for land stewardship, by aiming to conserve our property’s natural resources and characteristics for the long term. We are caretakers of the land first and foremost.
Our Mixed Land Use
Carolinian Forest Conservation:
Our brewery and farm are surrounded by beautiful Carolinian forests; we have left over half our acreage untouched. There are many native florae and fauna within these forests, and some of these are at risk. We take pride in our stewardship of the land to keep them safe and sound. A couple of examples include the Eastern Hemlock, Flowering Dogwood and Sassafras trees; Woodpeckers and Whippoorwills, Salamanders and tree frogs. Each year we have a family of turkeys flocking in and out of the forest and through our farm fields with their young.
Organic and Regenerative Agriculture:
We first started with growing organic hops and seasonal produce. We don’t use any chemicals, so we protect our soil and watershed and don’t make any of our pollinators sick. Instead, we use companion planting and agroecological techniques. We’ve planted native trees such as a Red Mulberry, Pawpaw, Osage orange and Hop trees. We’ve also planted many native pollinator species in a collaborative initiative with ALUS. We remain educated on invasive species and remove them by hand. We save our seed when we can. This year we spread wildflower and milkweed seed in a ditch restoration project. Milkweed is the main food source for Monarchs. Our gardens are bordered by tall prairie grasses which, in conjunction with our forests, help in climate mitigation; and along with the shrubs and wildflowers, provide shelter and protection for some of the smaller creatures that live around here. The native bees that live here appreciate those wildflowers too.
One of our owners, Tim, is the president of Local 301 for the NFU-O (National Farmer’s Union – Ontario). We host meetings in the taphouse, where we share ideas and insights. We’ve also had sustainable tourism students from Fanshawe and other colleges come through for tours and talks.
Brewery, Taphouse & Patio
We always seek a sustainable approach in our business endeavours. Our brewing initiatives, seasonal fare, vegetable stand and preserves connect our guests to Norfolk heritage and living off the land. Our signature beer, “Local 519” uses only hops grown right here on the farm. We are proud of Norfolk terroir and showcase this with the untreated well-water and seasonal ingredients in our brewing production. We compost all of our organic waste and share our spent grains with a local cattle farmer. We reduce and reuse wherever we can, with building materials and infrastructure. We use recycled materials like our notepads for serving; our flight boards are made from leftover wood from our hop posts.
One of the first at-risk species we became aware of that share our space are the barn swallows that make their nest under the peaks of our barns each year. They have returned four years in a row to have their babies. We love to sit and watch them in the evening, swooping and diving for insects. We’re stoked to coexist with this cool species, and that they’ve found refuge in our infrastructure.
Our Newest Initiatives:
- Species at Risk Stewardship Program through Carolinian Canada and Ontario Restoration Alliance
- We planted a grove of Cucumber Magnolia and Pawpaw trees around our property
- Long Point World Biosphere awarded our brewery with the Amazing Places Status
- Amazing Places is a sustainable tourism initiative, aimed to celebrate the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designation and connecting people with nature and culture
- We became a member of Norfolk Green Economy
- Implementation of green initiatives such as tracking sustainability metrics
- Hosting events to share insights on these initiatives
- Continuing Education with ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services)
- We attended a member appreciation event with speaker, Gregor Beck (owner of South Coast Gardens) who presented on “Species at Risk on the Farm”
- Learned many useful tips and resources on how to maximize your property to make it friendly and safe for the species at risk in Norfolk
- You can follow him on Twitter: @ggbeck
Every effort in conservation counts. You can be creative; you don’t have to be perfect or an expert. You just have to remain aware of how lucky we are to have this beautiful and resilient planet to live on, to be part of, and to contribute to. How will you make practising gratitude a priority?
By: Ms E Hoey
Environment and Climate Change Canada:
“Birds on the Farm: A Stewardship Guide” written by Erin McGauley, edited by Gregor Beck and Anne Bell:
Long Point Land Trust:
Report on biodiversity here: