Category Archives: Events

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!

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.

Organic Plant Breeding Tour: Fruition Seeds & Cornell University Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm

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Matthew Goldfarb and Petra Page-Mann at Fruition Seedsmgppm copy, and Dr. Michael Mazourek of Cornell University, have been improving and developing new varieties in the Northeast US with a focus on regional adaptation, nutrition, and flavour.

On this 2-day field trip, we will be visiting Cornell University’s Homer C. Thompson Research Farm to check out the field trials for Cornell’s organic plant breeding program and understand the different plant breeding and selection techniques Michael uses to develop new varieties. We’ll follow that up with a trip to Fruition Seeds, where we can check out these varieties in action and how they are being integrated into different seed growing operations.

Learn from these incredible seed producers and plant breeders as they discuss their work on developing regionally-adapted greens, peppers, squashes, radishes, and beets as part of one of the most innovative collaborative organic plant breeding projects in North America.

Full registration for this tour includes the following:

  • Workshops and field tours of Cornell University’s Homer C. Thompson Research Farm and Fruition Seeds
  • Transportation to all farms with pick-ups at the following locations:
    – Guelph, Kingston, or Niagara
    – Upon registering, please select which location you would like to be picked up from.
  • Lunches for September 7 and September 8

Registration will be available shortly on the EFAO events page.  Offered in partnership with The Bauta Family Initiative on Family Seed Security

Summary from Flower Growing Plans 2016 KTM

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By EFAO Member Stephanie Scott

Started out by discussing what the EFAO is and how it hflowersssselps connect small scale organic and ecological farmers in Ontario.  We all hope that the EFAO will help connect Ontario flower growers so we can better share information that is applicable to our climate and growing conditions

  • Discussed certification vs. not being certified, how a lack of organic standards for cut flowers impacts organic flower growers, growing more cut flowers than other certifiable products results in little incentive to go through all the work and expense to become certified

Introduced participants:

  • Theresa Schumilas of Garden Party, St. Agatha ON (host) has been growing organic vegetables, bedding plants and running a CSA, expanded into cut flowers in 2014.  Sells to florists and DIY weddings
  • Stephanie Scott of Petals & Sprigs, Baden ON third year growing cut flowers part-time, has flower CSA and does a few weddings/year
  • Jennifer Penney – grows cut flowers for her son’s vegetable CSA near Neustadt, ON
  • Kerri-Ann Peet-Harris – Flamborough, ON, Mainly an organic hay grower, has a cut flower garden and is looking for ways to expand it around haying season.
  • Melissa Winkler – New cut-flower farmer, had a roadside stand last year, planning sales at her neighbour’s on-farm store this year.

 

DIY weddings – cut your own flowers offer a lower cost option for brides, but may require more time and help than the price reflects

Talked about potential for other pick-your-own flower events to provide flowers for weddings, funerals, as a memorial event, as a party idea.  On a farm with a good set-up to host events could offer an additional revenue stream. (Good idea to keep a separate garden for pick-your-own flowers, and expensive and high effort flowers kept away from the public)

 

The discussion came back to the problem of finding customers that value locally grown flowers, that may be more expensive, several times.  How that changes during the seasons and how awareness of conventional flower growing methods is increasing slowly.

  • Mother’s Day is first holiday Ontario growers could easily have flowers for (if you don’t have a greenhouse) but demand may be higher for potted plants than bouquets of flowers.
  • Thanksgiving biggest holiday that we experience for flower sales
  • Possible year-round of long-term customers could include restaurants, offices, realtors (that stage houses for sale), hotels

Discussed different flowers for different needs, shorter stems for posies or small tabletop arrangements, longer stems for florists and hand-held bouquets.  Large woody stems needed for large scale arrangements eg. big urns in a hotel lobby

 

Touched on the difficulty of managing cooler space with flowers and veggies in it, as many flowers are ethylene sensitive and can’t be stored with anything that releases ethylene gas.  If managing both at the same time need to know the sensitivity of the flowers you are dealing with.  Best source we have found is the book ‘Specialty Cut Flowers’ by Alan M. Armitage and Judy M. Laushman

 

List of favourite perennials:

  • Daisies
  • Phlox
  • Yarrow (can pinch some of each variety to spread out flowering times)
  • Rudbeckia
  • Coneflowers
  • Bleeding heart

 

Favourite vines:

  • Sweet peas
  • Clematis
  • Hyacinth beans

 

Everyone agreed getting cockscomb celosia to germinate and thrive as transplants is much more difficult than the plumed version.  No one had any brilliant tricks for guaranteed success.

 

Early and late season flower ideas:

  • Flowering shrubs
  • Fruit trees
  • Dogwood
  • Pussy willows
  • Flowering Kale
  • Winter greenery, woody branches

 

Favourite Seed Sources:

  • Geo Seeds
  • Swallowtail Seeds
  • William Dam
  • Vesey’s
  • Johnny’s
  • Since the flower industry focused seed houses only have large volumes of each variety, we should work together to pool orders.  Can be hard to be a small grower.

 

Raker’s Truck plug orders:

  • Also mostly in large volumes, makes sense to pool orders, but wholesale prices are very low, even after importing from USA.
  • Easier to go through a broker
  • Has huge variety

 

Business Growing Ideas:

  • On farm event on how to arrange flowers, would pay for flowers (possibly pick-your-own) and the instruction time
  • Theresa sometimes hosts Herbal Tea events, has many herb beds, people go pick things to try out the flavours as a tea, just need a tent, hot water and lots of tea pots
  • Workshop educating potential DIY brides about how to do your own wedding flowers
  • Growing starts or a few specialty flowers to sell to other flower growers who do more arranging work
  • Connecting with wedding planners to get more bridal customers
  • Propagating perennials to sell to other growers and the public (perennials need dividing every few years anyway so it’s a good way to make money out of a task that needs to happen anyway)

 

We talked about the growth of the local flower movement, Slow Flowers in the USA, and educating customers.  Flowers are slowly following in the broad awareness of local food.

 

Best foraged material ideas:

  • Goldenrod (buds, still green, before flowers open)
  • Milkweed pods
  • Pinecones and tamarack branches with cones on them
  • Spindle bush
  • Burning bush seed pods

 

Mistakes and learning experiences:

  • Spacing, getting the right spacing for the size of flowers you want to produce, and so plants can support each other
  • Staking musts: Bells of Ireland, dahlias, delphiniums, foxgloves (sometimes), peonies.  Need to account for the wind at your location

 

Transport and display strategies:

  • Tall straight sided buckets for transporting in car or van best.  Or if flowers are chilled dry packing in flower boxes (best for those with shorter cars)
  • Places to find display buckets; garage sales, thrift stores, dollar stores, flower supply warehouses

 

We think more flowers are sold at the end of the week, before the weekend, than earlier in the week.  People want them for entertaining on the weekend, or to take to the cottage in the summer.  Might get better sales with a later week market, or having a roadside stand filled at the end of the week.
We all hope for more flower-focused events from the EFAO in the future!

Learn, Farm, Share… JOIN & WIN!

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JOIN a Growing Community of Farmers & win a Lee Valley Tools Gift Certificate!

The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario puts you in touch with other farmers, facilitates face to face interaction, hands on learning, and social connections.

You can’t get this from reading a book, or surfing the web! We offer you the opportunity to get involved, and share what you know! Whether you want to pass on knowledge, or would benefit from the encouragement and experience of other farmers, by joining the EFAO you are supporting the larger ecological farming community!

As a member, you help EFAO continue to offer practical, relevant and ongoing education for farmers who are dedicated to improving the practice of ecological farming in Ontario.

Get Your Membership at: efao.ca 

All new memberships received by March 31, 2016 will be entered in a draw for a $100 gift certificate from Lee Valley Tools! 

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Full  Membership Benefits:
Farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing & support

Discounted rates on EFAO courses and workshops

$75 discount on annual EFAO Conference

Access to our Advisory Service

Subscription to bi-monthly Ecological Farming in Ontario print Newsletter

Notice about upcoming ecological farming events through the E-News bulletin

Listing in our online Producer Directory

Free online and E-news listings in our Stock Exchange 

Discount listings in our Stock Exchange

Access to small print advertising in print newsletter

Member discounts and services apply to all farm members, including employees and interns

Access to digital “Member of EFAO” logo and voting rights!

KTM Summary: Small Scale Vegetable Growers Exchange

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Summary by EFAO Member Rashel Tremblay

Radishes-lines-up.-jpgOn February 15th, nine people gathered for a potluck and an informal idea exchange. One member drove over 3 hrs to attend! We came up with a large list of topics to talk about and the meeting could have gone on for several extra hours.

With the mix of beginner and seasoned farmers in attendance it was a great discussion and everyone left having learned lots of new information. Some of the topics we covered were: CSA start-up questions; the best veggies to grow for a CSA or for a market; studying and learning more about one’s own unique market needs and wants; the importance of adding fruits and berries to a CSA mix; permaculture methods to help with various soil conditions; invaluable farm tools and “best practices” for harvesting veggies such as beans; variety details and best growing practices for crops such as corn (especially when done organically), spinach, beans, lettuce (head vs leaf; washing + drying), tomatoes (heirloom vs hybrid; greenhouse vs field), and peppers; the pros and cons of growing lesser known crops such as Asian vegetables and strategies for introducing these to the public; the proson  buying in certain crops, like potatoes, vs growing them yourself; overwintering and season extension; pollinators, especially native ones, and how to attract them.

Interested in hosting a similar kitchen table meeting in your area? Contact naomi@efao.ca for more details.

EFAO announces first webinar: On-Farm Research Design & Analysis

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EFAO’s Farmer-led Research Program is gearing up for a productive first field season. We are working out the final details of two multi-farm projects (quick turnaround cover crops and soil health testing) and single-farm experiments (meat chicken comparison – see below, efficacy of foliar sprays and others). Stay tuned for more information in May!

As part of the program, EFAO will host its inaugural webinar: On-Farm Research Design & Analysis on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 from 9-10:30 a.m EST. It is free for anyone with an internet connection. This year’s farmer-researchers will participate and we hope you can join us too!

The webinar will cover the four steps to on-farm research, including tips for designing randomized and replicated trials that fit your farm and equipment and straightforward ways to analyze and interpret your results, followed by Q&A.

4steps

Can’t make it? The webinar will be recorded and archived here.

Attention pastured poultry farmers: Are you testing different breeds this year and want to be part of our meat chicken comparison? Please contact Sarah Hargreaves, sarah@efao.ca, for more info.

Contact: Sarah Hargreaves, sarah@efao.ca

 

EFAO is hosting an Information Session about the new Farmer-led Research Program

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“What are you going to research?” is a question I get a lot these days. “I don’t know!” I reply enthusiastically, to an often-puzzled look.

Really, the question needs to be posed to EFAO farmers: “What are you going to research?”

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The heart of our new Research Program is highlighted in its title: Farmer-led. It’s about giving EFAO farmers support, resources and compensation to investigate reliable on-farm answers and solutions. This means helping you

  • Find the root of your question or challenge
  • Design, conduct and analyze trials that fit your farm
  • Share discoveries freely with other farmers

In this way, the Information Session should really be called an Information & Brainstorming Session.

Research is a flexible and powerful tool for evaluating new methods, varieties and enterprises, and tweaks to current practices, so the Session will review its “instruction manual” – that is, the What? Why? And How’s of on-farm research.

But we will also spend a lot of time generating and sharing research ideas and questions.

  • What are you curious about?
  • What questions do you need answered to become a more profitable, resilient and ecological farmer?
  • What synergies and commonalities exist among members’ questions?
  • What training do you need to feel confident to conduct your own investigations?

Please join us at the Information Session! We want to hear from you!

Jan 31: Farmer-led Research Program Information (& Brainstorming) Session

9am-12pm

50 Stone Road E, University of Guelph, University Centre, Room 334

Free, just pre-register here!

Contact: Sarah Hargreaves, sarah@efao.ca

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Regenerative Orchards: Design, Production and Marketing Workshop

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Feb 21: Workshop – Regenerative Orchards: Design, Production and Marketing, with Stefan Sobkowiak of Fermes Miracle Farms, QC

stefan-and-fruit-on-table8:30am – 4:30pm

Ramada Inn, 805 Brookdale Avenue, Cornwall

Offered in partnership with Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa Chapter

 

 

Join Stefan Sobkowiak, biologist, landscape architect, permaculture educator and owner-operator of Fermes Miracle Farms in Western Quebec will lead this hands-on workshop.  He will discuss his experience of transforming 5 acres out of his 12-acre property into a permaculture-inspired “u-pick” orchard. Utilizing an innovative interplanting model, Stefan is producing over 100 cultivars of apples, 18 cultivars of pears, Asian pears, plums, cherries, hardy kiwi, grapes, mulberries, gooseberries, red currant, black currant, Saskatoon berries, raspberries, strawberries, and a whole range of herbs and perennial vegetables.

The full-day workshop will include information about: multispecies permaculture orchard design; variety selection and propagation; orchard-specific soil care; economics and profitability; pest management, and ecological benefits such as for pollinators and other orchard ‘allies’.  

Cost: $65/person for EFAO and COG OSO members; $75 for non-members.

Registration is available through the COG OSO website in conjunction with Eco Farm Day: cog.ca/ottawa/eco-farm-day. For more information contact ecofarmday@cog.ca.

Fair Finance for Local Food and Farms

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Local Organic Food Co-ops Network
7th Assembly and Fair Finance for Local Food and Farms 
February 22-24, 2016, Guelph, Ontario

The full day session is a partnership event with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network.  The various workshops and plenaries will explore innovative and adaptable forms of finance.  Conversations with lenders and funders will explore various financing sources and how to build meaningful dialogue.  The day will also begin to build the case for sector benchmarking and creating the narrative necessary to prove the economic impact of food systems across Ontario.  Speakers and workshops will include discussion and information on the following topics:

  • Conversation with Funders and Grantors
  • Co-operative regulations and community financing
  • Municipal and non-profit business partnerships
  • Working with banks and credit unions
  • Alternative financing models
  • Working with Community Futures Development Corporations
  • Government granting for farms and co-operatives
  • Social enterprise – including good food values in your business planning
  • And more!LOFC

The LOFC Network 7th Assembly Registration is now open! Register online and pay through various options.  Additional information and a draft agenda is available on the LOFC Network website.  For more information contact LOFC Network Event and Communication Coordinator, Joan Brady at lofcnetwork@gmail.com or 1-519-237-3108