Today marks the 95th anniversary of the year the Holland Marsh was transformed from a swamp into an arable land, preserving it from flooding and providing West Gwillimbury with the fresh vegetables from the many farmers we rely on today.
To celebrate, the Town of Bradford raised the Holland Marsh Growers’ Association Flag at the Bradford Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon.
The Holland Marsh is the “vegetable capital of Ontario”, offering higher levels of fertile, black, organic soil where the Art Janse Pumping Station pumps excess water levels into the Holland River and Lake Simcoe.
Joined by members of town council, Jody Mott from the Holland Marsh Growers Association, York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson, and Art Janse, former municipal politician and Drainage Commissioner and consultant on the Holland Marsh, BWG Mayor Rob Keffer opened the flag raising ceremony by acknowledging the long history and challenges the town had to overcome to proceed with the construction of what we know today as the great Holland Marsh.
“In 1925, the shovel went in the ground to construct the drainage scheme,” remembers Janse. “I called the Holland Marsh one of the crown jewels in Ontario."
Art Janse (author of “Documentation and History of the Holland Marsh Drainage Scheme”) acknowledged Bradford resident Mr. Watson, Professor Day (from University of Guelph) and Alexander Baird (Civil Engineer from Sarnia) who were instrumental in the development of the Holland Marsh – from petitions filed, plans and surveys produced, costs for the drainage works, and eventually a bylaw passed to begin construction.
The cost of the overall construction was $171, 847.58 and the only known historical photo of the barge was taken in 1928 by Bradford resident Mrs. Sinclair Mills.
“It truly makes you appreciate farming. If it weren’t for farming, I wouldn’t have the 20/20 vision I have from our rich carrots,” joked MP Davidson.
Several attendees at the flag raising mentioned that funding was a big issue almost a century ago, but that the agricultural development which brought success to farmers for centuries to come made the countless hours in legislation worth the reward of rich soil and fresh vegetables residents can enjoy from the Holland Marsh.
“This is the soup and salad bowl of Canada,” said Mott, who represents over 126 farmers in the Holland Marsh from the Growers' Association. “We have the best soil! We are very fortunate."
Art Janse adds “95 years later we have reaped the benefits of the pioneers and especially the hard work in the beginning by Mr. Watson, Professor Day, and Alexander Baird – thank you!”