About specialty crop areas

As outlined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020, the following crops are predominantly grown in specialty crop areas:

  • tender fruits (for example, peaches, cherries and plums)
  • grapes
  • other fruit crops (for example, apples, pears and berries)
  • vegetable crops
  • greenhouse crops
  • crops from agriculturally developed organic soil (for example, carrots and onions)

The commercial production of these crops is possible due to a combination of:

  • suitable soil and/or special climatic conditions
  • farmers skilled in growing these crops
  • capital investments into areas such as:
    • perennial rootstock
    • workers’ accommodations
    • storage, processing and distribution facilities
    • drainage or irrigation infrastructure
    • equipment

Provincial policy gives specialty crop areas the highest priority for protection because they:

  • are scarce and unique; if lost, they cannot be recreated
  • are important economically (jobs, diversification of the economy)
  • represent some of Ontario’s highest earning agricultural lands
  • provide many value-added and agri-tourism opportunities

Permitted uses

Specialty crop areas include a wide variety of economic opportunities such as agricultural, agriculture-related and on-farm diversified uses.

Under certain conditions, infrastructure (for example, roads, pipelines) and mineral aggregate extraction may be permitted.

Other non-agricultural uses, including settlement areas, are not permitted.

Provincial locations

Provincial specialty crop areas can be categorized into three groups:

  1. Specialty crop areas designated in the Greenbelt Plan:
    • Holland Marsh
    • Niagara Peninsula Tender Fruit and Grape Area
  2. Specialty crop areas designated in a provincially approved, municipal official plan:
  3. Areas with specialty crop area characteristics and economic opportunities associated with fruit and vegetable production, but not yet designated in a municipal official plan or provincial plan:

In addition to provincial specialty crop areas, municipalities may designate locally or regionally significant specialty crop areas based on municipal criteria.