This page is most useful if you are considering buying land but can also be used to gain knowledge about Canadian pedology, geology, hydrogeology and topography, in addition to other environmental and social factors.
Step 1: Education
Read “The Living Landscape” and “Permaculture Design Manual” detailed on the Books page.
Step 2: Selecting a region
Review the Plant Hardiness Zones in Canada to determine what flora will most likely survive in the zone of your picking.
Crop Heat Units are also a good indicator of the length of growing seasons. For instance, even though Cochrane, Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba are on the same latitude, Winnipeg has 1000 more growing-degree days than Cochrane, even though Cochrane is part of the Clay Belt. Crop Heat Units for Corn and Other Warm Season Crops in Ontario provides further information on this topic.
Understand the types of soil in Canada by reading The Canadian System of Soil Classification, 3rd edition, in order for the soil surveys to make sense. Chapters 1-3, 15 and 17 should be read with the others being optional. Evaluate if the region you are looking at has suitable soil by viewing the relevant soil surveys by Canadian province.
Step 3: Circling the region
Perform aerial studies of the region you are interested in.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources provides an interactive map to view natural features, constructed features, municipal boundaries and grids. However, the interaction is not as smooth as Google Maps or Google Earth.
View the topographic map of the area you are interested in. As an example, you don’t want too steep an incline as it usually means soil erosion and excessive soil drainage.
Step 4: Ground water
View the distribution of freshwater maps. This is especially relevant if you are living away from municipal water or want to live off the grid.
You would want to know the water consumption maps for the region you are investigating in order to determine if you should be making provisions for water storage in the form of rain water harvesting, ponds, etc.
Step 5: Pollution
Besides looking at possible mining operations, industrial zones, high traffic volume roadways, deforestation and other scarring of the land that is visible from satellite imagery, it is good to get an idea of where other sources of pollution are in relation to the land you are considering. The Ministry of Environment has a page relating to Landfills, Garbage, Incinerators, Recycling and Composting. As an example of how this guides one, a map of large landfill sites should immediately rule out those regions for land prospects owing to soil, water and air are being more contaminated.
Local municipalities usually have smaller landfill sites that will not show up on the aforementioned map or even on the open smaller landfill sites list (PDF). It is is best to contact the particular municipalities for further information.
Of course, nothing beats an actual visit to the site to see what is really happening in the vicinty. With articles like Huge Amounts Of Human Waste Being Sprayed On Farm Land In Ontario not getting much attention, it is wise to go see what the neighbours are up to.
Step 6: Other factors to consider
For socio-economic, demographic, environmental, health and history, etc, consult the Atlas of Canada.
Step 7: Other
1. Microclimate/weather considerations
2. List of questions to ask when prospecting for land
3. Legal considerations
4. Separate section for soil (testing, etc.)