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Help shape policy on managing soil health in Ontario

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OMAFRA is inviting comments on their Draft Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy until Dec 31. This is an important opportunity to shape policy priorities and directions on managing soil health in Ontario for the next 15 years. According to OMAFRAs own statistics, 82% of farmland has been losing soil organic matter and 54% of farmland is at serious risk of erosion. The Strategy covers 4 main Soil themes: Management; Data & Mapping; Evaluation & Monitoring; Knowledge & Innovation. While the stated goals and objectives of the draft Strategy and strong, they are not sufficiently captured in the targets and action plans.

The EFAO Soil Health Working Group has prepared a submission, and we would like to encourage all EFAO members to provide individual feedback as well. You can do this by responding via OMAFRA’s feedback form or by sending an email to soilhealth@ontario.ca (Better yet – do BOTH!).

Here are some suggestions for issues to address, either in the “Additional Comments” section at the end of the Feedback Form, or in your email:

Farmers have a key role to play in counteracting climate change, as increases in soil organic carbon reduce atmospheric CO2. In order to take advantage of this, our provincial strategy must:

  • establish more aggressive targets for increasing % soil organic matter, and decreasing both % bare winter soil and % topsoil loss

  • set interim targets because 2030 is too far away

  • move away from limitations of Best Management Practices (BMP) to an integrated systems approach

The strategy should include provision of financial incentive for reaching and exceeding Soil Health improvement targets that:

  • incentivize results of farmers’ management strategies rather than compliance with particular BMPs

  • don’t disqualify financial supports from those who are already improving Soil Health

Additionally, in response to the Feedback Form question “What could you or your organization do to support efforts to improve soil health and conservation in Ontario?” you may want to include:

  • Continue to improve on-farm cover cropping, soil building and tillage reduction practices

  • Provide funds to support peer-to-peer educational events and farmer-led research

  • The Agriculture Community should not be responsible for the full cost for building Soil Health – activities of agricultural non-profits, especially those that promote Peer-to-Peer networks, should be shared widely and funded

If you send an email submission, please cc or bcc EFAO’s Soil Health Working group at soil@efao.ca.

2017 EFAO Conference only 2 Weeks Away!

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Two weeks from today, farmers from all over Ontario will be convening in the Blue Mountains for the 2017 EFAO Conference, Rebuilding Rural Economies from the Ground Up. With an excellent lineup of speakers coming from all over Canada and the U.S. to share their stories and knowledge of innovative ecological farming practices, this is an event not to be missed! Leading up to the conference, check out the features on different speakers and topics on EFAO’s social media feeds and conference blog – but for now, here are a few highlights to look forward to. Registration closes November 28th, so sign up if you haven’t already!

  • Interested in diversifying and trying something new on your farm? Nichki Carangelo will discuss raising pastured rabbits, Ahren Hughes shares his experience with small-scale dried bean production, and Jolanta Dabrowski will guide you through the best natural beekeeping techniques she knows.

  • Been meaning to write that farm newsletter? Not sure how best to share your farm’s story? Shannon Hayes, whose farm-focused writing has been featured in the New York Times, is our keynote speaker and will lead a workshop in her creative process in crafting newsletters.

  • What would the EFAO conference be without its cornerstone of workshops on soil stewardship? You have 5 different workshops to enjoy, honing in on everything from soil management on vegetable farms to farmland regeneration through intensive pasture management.

  • If you learn best from seeing other farms and having conversations, the 2 Wednesday tours are for you! Visit The New Farm, a wholesale-focused vegetable operation (don’t forget to bid on their newly published book at the silent auction!) Or, if you’d prefer to see how a farmer-driven cooperative runs, you can visit the Eat Local Grey Bruce warehouse to see how they bring farmers and eaters together.

  • Enjoy the breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings featuring local, ecologically grown food–some of which comes from our own members’ farms! Childcare is also available on Thursday and Friday, so you can learn and your kids can play ! Both the Thursday and Friday dinners, as well as childcare are opt-in, so be sure to add them to your registration!

Stay updated via the conference website or on our your favourite social media feeds (twitter, facebook, and Instagram)! Hope to see you there!

The 2017 EFAO Conference is Coming!

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Early Bird Rates in effect until November 6th

4th Annual Ecological Farmers of Ontario Conference

November 29-December 1, 2017
Blue Mountain Resort, Blue Mountains, ON
Visit conference.efao.ca or call 1-877-822-8606 to register.

Join over 300 ecological growers and supporters from across Ontario and beyond for an incredible three days packed full of practical farmer training, networking opportunities, and celebration.

A draft program illustrating this year’s theme, Rebuilding Rural Economies from the Ground Up, is now available online.

Conference program highlights include:

  • Thursday keynote address by Shannon Hayes, the Radical Homemaker
  • Friday keynote address by Lauren Martin of the Canadian Organic Trade Association
  • Speaker panel on co-operative farming models, facilitated by Faith Gilbert of Letterbox Farm Collective
  • Intensive pasture management & land restoration with Shawn & Beth Dougherty, authors of The Independent Farmstead
  • Farm business management sessions addressing cost of production, marketing, and labour management
  • Soil-focused workshops on topics such as low-input agriculture and soil carbon sequestration
  • Workshops on grain production, intercropping, natural beekeeping, seed crops, and animal health
  • Tours at The New Farm and Eat Local Grey Bruce
  • Many more exciting topics and speakers!

Early-bird pricing ends November 6th – register early to take advantage of this reduced rate!

Visit conference.efao.ca for the latest updates!

EFAO Seeking Fundraising Coordinator

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The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) is looking for a motivated and organized individual to research, design, carry out and evaluate a fundraising strategy for EFAO. The position will also provide opportunities to connect with Ontario’s ecological agriculture community and take part in a dynamic grass-roots organization dedicated to supporting farmers!

Position: 30 hours/week, offered through the Ontario Job Creation Partnerships (OJCP) program (see eligibility criteria below)
Duration: September 11, 2017 – June 29th, 2018 (40 weeks)
Compensation: $423/week through OJCP program
Location: Guelph, Ontario

About the EFAO
The Ecological Farmers of Ontario (EFAO) is a farmer-led charitable organization that has been supporting ecological farmers in Ontario since 1979. We strive to provide practical farmer-to-farmer training in ecological farming and to build community and support for our member farmers. Our main activities include workshops, farm tours, kitchen table meetings, an advisory service, farmer-led research, an annual conference and a bi-monthly newsletter. To learn more about EFAO please visit efao.ca.

Eligibility

This position is being offered through the Ontario Job Creation Partnerships (OJCP) program. After being selected by EFAO, candidates will also be interviewed by a program representative. Eligibility criteria include the following:

  • Unemployed and legally entitled to work in Canada (if working part-time, must be less than 20 hours per week);
  • Eligible for Employment Insurance Benefits, or have collected EI Benefits in the past 36 months, or finished a maternity or parental claim within the last 60 months are now looking to return to the work force;
  • Have completed a Needs Assessment interview with a designated Service Provider, and developed a Return To Work Action Plan (RTWAP) indicating that a JCP position is a suitable intervention to meet the Plan’s goal.

Responsibilities

  • Research potential fundraising opportunities
  • Develop both a short-term and long-term Fundraising Strategy
  • Coordinate and attend fundraising events, gather feedback and prepare reports on event success
  • Develop communications materials
  • Attend public events, conferences and tradeshows to promote donor fundraising program
  • Explore fundraising opportunities through EFAO merchandise (i.e. baseball hats, t-shirts, etc)
  • Other project-related activities as needed.

Skills & Assets Required

  • Experience with fundraising and marketing/communications
  • Experience preparing budgets and making budget reports
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Experience with social media platforms
  • Timely and attentive to details
  • Relationship-building skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Self motivated, creative problem solver with the ability to prioritize and see tasks through
  • Experience working or volunteering with non-profit organizations
  • Familiarity with the broader ecological farm community in Ontario
  • Access to a car and valid driver’s license
  • Ability to occasionally work on weekends

To apply please email the following in a single PDF document to jobs@efao.ca   

  • A cover letter describing why you would be a good fit for this position
  • A resume outlining relevant experience
  • 3 references

Deadline: **Deadline Extended** Please apply on or before September 4, 2017.

Please note that only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.

Learn about interplanting and paper planters at upcoming field day

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The farmer-led research field days have been off to a great start, coming up next we’ll be visiting Ryan Thiessen at Creek Shore Farms in St. Catharines.  Ryan has been using a paper-pot transplanter and wanted to try planting some crops at a foot spacing, but the largest paper-pots are six inch spacing… so he got creative!  He’s trying out inter-planting onions in his brassicas to see if that will help limit moth pressure on the brassicas, and to see if the onions will still get enough light tucked in between his broccoli.  Come on out to see his farm and his experimental plots on the afternoon of Monday August 7th. For more info and to register check out https://efao.ca/upcoming-events/.

 

Here’s a video on the paper planter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMSpN0E8_H8

Media Release! EFAO Recognizes Grant from Ontario Trillium Foundation for Farmer-led Research

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On Monday, June 26, 2017, Heather Coffey of Fiddlehead Farm on behalf of Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO), welcomed members of the public to a farm tour and plaque presentation to mark the growth of Ontario’s first Farmer-led Research Program. Local MPP Todd Smith and OTF Grant Review Team member Nancy Parks were on hand to congratulate the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and the farmer-researchers conducting research trials this summer, and to hear more about how farmer-led research is a powerful decision-making tool that helps farmers innovate in the area of ecological agriculture.

“I am pleased to see this Ontario Trillium Foundation Grow grant go to such a worthy recipient,” said Todd Smith, MPP for Prince Edward – Hastings. “This farmer-led research project will bring vital information to Ontario farmers, for them to learn and share with one another and create an environment that is both economical and environmentally friendly. Congratulations to the EFAO on this successful application.”

Thanks to the $362,000 Grow Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Farmer-led Research Program is supporting Ontario farmers to conduct research trials that address their challenges and fit their farm and equipment. In addition, the program hosts webinars, supports farmer-to-farmer information sharing at field days and workshops and a publicly available online database of farmers’ knowledge (efao.ca/research-library).

“This grant has allowed us to grow farmer-led research in Ontario. The program is about cultivating a culture of science and curiosity that supports farmers to innovate on their farms”, said Heather Coffey, Eastern Ontario Research Coordinator of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.

EFAO’s Farmer-led Research Program is committed to supporting farmers to generate and share evidence-based information about ecological farming practices and archiving farmer knowledge specific to Ontario. Visit EFAO’s website for more information on how you can join or support farmer-led research efforts in Ontario (efao.ca).

An agency of the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities. www.otf.ca.

Photo caption: Participants learned about farmer-led research at a field day hosted by Heather Coffey and Steve Laing of Fiddlehead Farm. MPP Todd Smith and Ontario Trillium Foundation volunteer Nancy Parks were also in attendance to help the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario recognize funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to expand farmer-led across the province. (Left to right): Ayla Fenton (Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario), Heather Coffey (farmer-researcher and Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario), Nancy Parks (Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant Review Team member), and MPP Todd Smith (Prince Edward – Hastings)

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Hargreaves, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario 226-582-0626 (cell), sarah@efao.ca

Tax Tips for Farmers!

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With tax season on us, Three Ridges Ecological Farm held a Kitchen Table Meeting on Tax Tips for Farmers. Greg Schoniker from FBC in London dropped by the farm to discuss all things farm taxes. The four of us in attendance all learned something important so I thought I would share Greg’s tips and advice.

FBC’s Top Tax Tips for Farmers:

  1. Keep good records! This includes readable copies of all your receipts, and credit card statements aren’t receipts!
  2. Always file a tax return AND file on time – even if you don’t owe! Late filings increasing your chance of an audit!
  3. Time capital gains and losses to reduce your overall tax burden. This is especially important for large purchases or sales with large capital gains.
  4. Plan borrowing to avoid losing tax deductions. Separate loans between personal and business to help identify tax deductions, remembering that interest is a tax deduction.
  5. Make mortgage interest tax deductible. Consider refinancing and investing the equity in your business.
  6. Get the facts before you rent out a portion of your property! Aside form legal implications, there are tax implications to consider, like depreciation on part of your primary residence.
  7. Use spousal RRSP to split income. This is especially pertinent if the farm business structure is sole proprietor.
  8. Plan your RRSP contributions. The tax deduction of RRSP may be better used in years when you anticipate having higher net income, while Tax Free Savings Accounts may be better used in lower income years.
  9. Invest in a Tax Free Savings Account. 
  10. Have a Risk Management Plan. 

Some other tips we took away from the KTM:

  1. Keep a vehicle log for all vehicles driven for farm-related activities.
  2. Each farmer-owner is eligible for up to $1 million in Capital Gains Exemptions, which need not be only on the gains on a property.

Similarly, ACORN released a blog by Coastal Tax and Accounting Services about Tips for Small-Scale Farmers, which you can read here.

Also note there will be a similar Tax Tips Webinar in May – keep an eye out!

Cheers,

Sarah

This blog cannot and does not replace or substitute in place of a consultation with a knowledgeable accountant who may offer tax advice based upon the specific circumstances of your situation, and the tax layws in effect in your geographical location and jurisdiction.

Dundalk Area Beef Farmer Wins 2017 Mapleseed Pasture Award

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February 22, 2017 (Toronto, ON) – The Beef Farmers of Ontario, Mapleseed and the Ontario Forage Council, sponsors of the Mapleseed Pasture Award, are pleased to announce that Paul DeJong of Ventry Hill Farm from the Dundalk area in Grey County is the winner of the 2017 Mapleseed Pasture Award. The award was presented this afternoon at the Beef Farmers of Ontario Annual General Meeting in Toronto.

 

For his environmental improvements and exceptional pasture management, Paul received a cash award of $500 and a bag of forage seed courtesy of Mapleseed.

 

Ventry Hill Farm consists of 450 acres, 100 of which are in pasture, along with an additional 30 acres of rented pasture land. Paul runs 50 cow-calf pairs and currently raises about 70 stockers that are pastured during the summer months. In order to maximize pasture production and weight gain, he uses a strip grazing system to maintain a consistent forage height and improve forage quality. This method allows Paul to meet his herd’s nutritional requirements, contribute to calf growth, and ensure his cows are in optimal body condition.

 

“Pasture is the main source of feed for my herd and there is a high water table in our area,” explains DeJong. “We try to pasture at least six months of the year, and by grazing a fall rye cover crop, pasture can be extended by two weeks.”

 

To prevent excessive trampling of his forages, Paul installed a waterline to provide fresh water to each paddock, which is equipped with quick-attach couplers for a convenient water supply at all times.

 

“The weight gain and cost per pound of gain achieved by Ventry Hill Farm proves that effective rotational pasture management can have many environmental and economical benefits,” shares Lawrence Levesque, District Sales Manager, Mapleseed.

 

Ray Robertson, Manager of the Ontario Forage Council, commented that as producers try to maximize their net profit from every acre, the management decisions made on Ventry Hill Farm are a great example of how some producers can improve the overall profitability of their operation.
The deadline for applications for the 2018 Mapleseed Pasture Award is November 30, 2017.

EFAO Volunteer Opportunities

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EFAO Volunteer Positions

On-Farm Event Coordinators

Position: On-Farm Event Coordinators

Type: 7 month volunteer (details below)

Organization: Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (efao.ca)

Location: Guelph, Ontario

EFAO is looking for 2 Volunteer On-Farm Coordinators, one located in Eastern Ontario and one located in Southwestern Ontario.

In this position, you would attend and facilitate farm tours and on-farm workshops (for free!) on behalf of the EFAO. These events cover a variety of topics, from irrigation to cut flower production. The On-Farm Event Coordinator is a volunteer position starting in April and lasting until November 2017. The position involves approximately 40 hours of work total, depending on schedule and availability. Events may be on weekends or weekdays (typically, though not exclusively, Sunday, Monday, or Wednesday) and can be up to 6 or 8 hours, including travel time. Volunteers are reimbursed for travel expenses.

More details at: https://efao.ca/seeking-on-farm-event-coordinators/
Deadline: February 24, 2017

Questions about the position can be directed to Naomi Krucker, Membership Services Coordinator (naomi@efao.ca, 519-822-8606 x.105)

Email resume and cover letter in a single document to naomi@efao.ca

EFAO Online Community Forum

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EFAO Online Community Forum

 

The EFAO is proud to launch a new online resource built to serve Ontario’s ecological farming community: the EFAO Online Community Forum. This tool is meant to foster and facilitate the exchange of ideas, knowledge and expertise, as well as the pooling of resources amongst members of the ecological farming community.

 

As with any community, you get what you put into it. Therefore we encourage you to actively participate: ask questions, offer up opinions, and answer other members’ questions. The forum is open to anyone that has an account on efao.ca (members and non-members alike).

 

We know your time is precious, and with that in mind we made sure the Forum is easy and convenient for you to use. Some of its features are:

 

  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Yearly digests (you decide!)
  • Topic activity notifications
  • Reply-by-email
  • User preferences to customize your forum experience
  • Fully indexed and searchable content
  • Actively moderated by EFAO staff and volunteers

 

As far as content goes, you can expect the following:

 

  • Categorized content for all aspects of ecological farming
  • Input from the EFAO member base
  • Classifieds (buy/sell, jobs, etc.) section exclusive to EFAO members
  • Special content from EFAO events (presentations, workshops, etc.) and post-event discussion

 

In order to access the Forum, you simply need to use your efao.ca account username and password. If you don’t have such an account, you can create one for free and get access to the forum. So don’t wait and bookmark the link below.

The EFAO Online Community Forum is generously funded by Carrot Cache!

 

Join the discussion now at:

http://forum.efao.ca