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New & Updated EFAO Memberships

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We are excited to announce the following membership categories, developed to support the needs of new and existing EFAO members. Starting September 1st, 2019, the following membership rates and benefits will apply to all membership purchases and renewals.

Click the image for a pdf version of all new membership details:



A few things to note:

  • The Full Membership remains $75 and includes the same benefits as a 1-year Farm/Individual membership
  • While the 2-year membership is no longer available, a discounted $65/year membership will be available if you sign-up for auto-renewal

Join our team! EFAO is hiring a Special Events Coordinator

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Position: Special Events Coordinator

Hours: 30 hours/week 

Start date: August 19, 2019 (flexible)

Duration: up to 42 weeks

Compensation: $423/week in employment benefits, with possibility for some top-up pending funding         

Location: Guelph, Ontario

Application deadline: Please apply on or before July 26, 2019  Deadline Extended to August 2nd 2019


ABOUT EFAO

The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) supports farmers to build resilient ecological farms and grow a strong knowledge-sharing community. Established in 1979 by farmers – for farmers, EFAO is a membership organization that focuses on farmer-to-farmer education and research. EFAO brings farmers together so that they can learn from each other and improve the health of their soils, crops, livestock and the environment, while running profitable farm businesses.  Our main activities include workshops, farm tours, kitchen table meetings, an advisory service, farmer-led research, an annual conference and a bi-monthly newsletter.


ABOUT THE POSITION

EFAO is looking for a motivated and organized individual to support the development of new special events and communications in celebration of the association’s 40th Anniversary, and the redesign of our print newsletter. 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.  

This position is funded through the Ontario Jobs Creation Partnership (OJCP) program. Please see eligibility requirements below.


RESPONSIBILITIES

Working with EFAO’s Education Director, tasks of the Special Events Coordinator may include the following:

Special Events

  • Organize and promote special events for EFAO’s 40th Anniversary   
  • Coordinate and promote 40th Anniversary celebrations at the annual EFAO conference

Newsletter Redesign and Development

  • Conduct background research 
  • Support content development (i.e. identifying contributors, writing member profiles, conducting interviews)
  • Outreach to new advertisers 

Outreach and Communication:

  • Documentation of events through blog posts, photographs and live streaming on social media.    
  • Support production and viewing of film documenting EFAO’s history
  • Develop new communication materials (i.e posters, postcards, social media graphics, press releases)
  • Develop social media strategy for engaging members and others in EFAO’s 40th Anniversary.

REQUIREMENTS

  • Experience with event design, development and implementation 
  • Excellent communication skills and experience in marketing and promotions
  • Experience with different social media platforms
  • Creative problem-solving skills with a keen attention to detail
  • Self-motivated with an exceptional ability to prioritize, manage many tasks at once, and meet deadlines
  • Works both independently and as part of a small, dynamic team to meet organizational goals
  • Experience working or volunteering with non-profit organizations
  • Passionate and knowledgeable about food and agriculture; familiarity with the ecological agricultural community in Ontario an asset
  • Both experience or interest in graphic design and event budget management considered an asset
  • Some off-site and weekend work required

ELIGIBILITY

This position is funded through the Ontario Jobs Creation Partnership (OJCP) program. Participants will be paid the maximum employment benefits for up to 42 weeks. Please see this Q and A for more information.

Eligible participants:

  • Must be currently in receipt of EI benefits
    • OR able to establish an EI benefits claim prior to beginning the position,
    • OR have completed an EI claim within the past 36 months,
    • OR began a maternity or parental claim within the past 60 months;
  • Be unemployed, or working part-time (less than 20 hours per week);
  • In need of the work experience that will be gained through this position, where this experience will improve their prospects for securing full-time work in their field of interest & expertise

APPLICATION

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

If you have questions about the position or your eligibility, please contact Katie Baikie at jobs@efao.ca.

A 30-year-old Newsletter

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Did you know that the EFAO office has archived most of the printed newsletters the organization published since its beginnings? Using a typewriter and sometimes hand-drawn images, the older newsletters included things like recipes, stories and articles from member farmers, and details about EFAO events. Many of the contributors and board members whose names appear in old issues are still involved in the organization today.

Check out this blast from the past – the May newsletter from 1989!

 

‘Feeling Good’ in a Changing Climate: The Story of Isabelle Spence-Legault

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Written by Victoria Lesy, Matt Orton, Abdul-Rahim Abdulai, Nicole Unterlander, Abigail Van Reisen from the Arrell Food Institute, University of Guelph; in collaboration with Thorsten Arnold, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.  

This story is part of a series of case studies documenting the experience of 6 EFAO member farmers as they adapt to climate change on their farms.

Field Good Farms is a biointensive 5-acre vegetable operation in Cache Bay, located near Lake Nipissing in Ontario’s north. Isabelle Spence-Legault and her husband Ryan Spence established the farm in 2011 and have been farming full time since 2012. They have two greenhouses dedicated to growing vegetables. The two relish selling everything directly to customers – around 90% through a CSA – complemented with online marketing and sales to local restaurants. Like many other farmers, climate variability is one of the biggest threats to the farm. Isabelle does not have to look back far to remember how climate variability has influenced their operation: “I would say last summer was probably one of the most challenging since becoming experienced farmers.” The season was hot and dry, and soil moisture was not able to support plant growth. This situation was compounded by operating within a majority conventional farming community that does not share similar values and could not offer advice.

 

Rows of beans planted in between rows of potatoes, with a heavy buckwheat buffer at the edge of the field. “We use no pesticides on our farm (not even organically approved), so the many rows of potatoes are rid of the colorado potato beetle by hand (we shake the plants into 5 gal buckets we carry along with us). The beneficials get scooped out before we fill the bucket with water.” (Field Good Farms)

Climate impacts go beyond seasonal variability and also influence cycles of pest pressure, which according to Isabelle has equally positive and negative consequences. With last year’s dry weather that weakened plants, bug pressure is mounting. But in cycles of wet summers, she has also seen beneficial thrive and help in their production.

But climate change also changes the everyday experiences of farmers and their mental stability and resilience: “Another important point is that it doesn’t only have an impact on the flora and fauna, but it also has an impact on the psyche of the farmer. My partner and I have been working so hard dealing with unexpected issues. We cannot really predict much. It makes it challenging. Not just for production management but also for the well-being of the staff working outside.”

The situation is concerning, especially for ecological farmers who rely on manual labour where conventional operators use chemical inputs. She recounts how other farmers are making compromises with their ecological values when struggling with the impacts of climatic variability, by ‘switching to safer models.’ This includes the use of biodegradable plastics on the farm, which they shy away from.

 

Head lettuce on straw mulch. “Head lettuce is superior to the much-more lucrative cut greens, but we prefer the fact that we don’t have to bag the head lettuce (plastic bags are yucky), and that they store longer in people’s fridge, which we hope translates to less food waste. Also, straw mulch is a great option, and seems to do just as well for us than what we used to use, biodegradable plastic mulch, which has been phased out of our farm (we use landscape fabric to smother in advance of planting perennials to avoid tillage, and in our high tunnels, but avoid it as much as possible)” (Field Good Farms)

With all the concerns, there are ways farmers can continue to be ecologically resilient, Isabelle opines. To “feel good” amidst climate change, many practical measures have been put in place and she plans for further investments. For example, planting approximately 4500 trees to balance their microclimate while sequestering carbon, planting food producing perennials adapted to their climate, and building improved greenhouses for transplants to support stronger seedlings. They also plan to dig a pond that will help store water for hot summers like the one in 2018.

Despite all these measures, Isabelle finds that resilience is a matter beyond the farm gate that requires a holistic approach. Their CSA marketing is one of their strategies that reduces marketing uncertainty and her anxiety of thinking about the sales, so she can better focus on production: “But generally, [we are] just trying to build in more resilience; the CSA helps with that as it erases some of the lack of understanding which comes with standing on the other side of the booth selling a commodity. The result of this is an inability to have an immediate dialogue with the consumer about best ecological practices. We can have that dialogue with clients of our CSA, and can invite them to the farm to see some of the things we talk about in action.”

 

The hardworking farmers behind Field Good Farms; Isabelle (right) and Ryan (left) (Field Good Farms)

If anything has proven vital to Field Good Farms, then it is the CSA; but how can other farmers also become resilient within our challenging climate? Isabelle has simple advice: there is a lot of knowledge out there, complimented by a buzzing new interest in agriculture by some youth. Farmers must take advantage of this mix of old and new and share knowledge on how to become better at what they do and love. And it is important to increase resilience and restore farm ecologies: “There are models out there, no-till models like the one at Singing Frogs Farm in California. I can empathize with the amount of pressure put on us as farmers. All sorts of constraints seem to bind us, but, if we aren’t creating a regenerative model and sticking to sustainability peppered with convenience, then we aren’t advancing the food system, which, beyond food production, should be our goal.”

If farmers are open to the endless possibilities of today, then they can thrive and build resilient operations. Nonetheless, in these times of overall uncertainty, external support for learning, knowledge exchange, research, and access to investment capital area vital necessity, as well as funding for research and capacity building for organizations like the EFAO and universities. However, it would prove very useful if knowledge generation and dissemination were generally more relevant to farmers through farm-based research that meets the needs of those who use it.

 

Isabelle and Ryan’s daughter Madeline during garlic cleaning (Field Good Farms)

 

An Ontario Farmer Facing the Perils of Climate Change: Kristine Hammel

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Written by Victoria Lesy, Matt Orton, Abdul-Rahim Abdulai, Nicole Unterlander, Abigail Van Reisen from the Arrell Food Institute, University of Guelph; in collaboration with Thorsten Arnold, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.


This story is part of a series of case studies documenting the experience of 6 EFAO member farmers as they adapt to climate change on their farms.


Kristine Hammel and her husband know from first-hand experience the strain that climate change puts on farmers. Kristine runs a small-scale diversified farm with her husband, Thorsten Arnold, in Grey County, Ontario. Their operation is made up of 1.5 acres of market garden and 20 acres of hay fields. Since 2010 when they started their operation, they have employed diverse marketing models including direct marketing to consumers through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), selling through a local online-farmers market co-operative (Eat Local Grey Bruce), and at farmers markets. They also sell to restaurants and sell sheep meat directly to consumers.

 

 

Manifestations of climate change and variability is something Kristine lives with every year as they prepare to kickstart the farm season.

“The last three years have been completely out of whack,” says Kristine. “2016 was extremely dry, [and] 2017 was extremely wet. 2018 started dry for about two months, May to July two and a half months, and then turned into continuous wet from August to now – from desert to rice paddy! So there does not seem to be a sort of moderate or average anymore. Fluctuations probably balance out over the whole year, in terms of the same amount of precipitation that we are getting, but we just happen to have now two or three months where we are not getting anything or where we are getting it every day.”

She added that changes go beyond rainfall as temperatures have also been unpredictable. “It tends to be very hot for very long or then quite cool for very long. This year [2018], we had a lot of snow in late April and a cold and late cool start to the season. Then June and July were very hot and totally dry. Weather doesn’t seem to swing quickly from one to the other; we seem to get stuck in extended weather patterns where we get one thing and then we get it for a long time and quite severely.”

 

What struck Kristine goes beyond the variability and unpredictable weather conditions they face each season. Climate change impacts have become very much localized so that it becomes difficult to rely on information from weather stations which are far apart from each other.

“Yes, that also seems to be part of it: once I got soaked 2 km from home during the dry spell, but had no rain at home. Then, I got rain much earlier than people six kilometres to the east of me. It seems to be quite patchy.”

The localized nature of climate makes planning difficult for most farmers, and for many, this means a growing threat to their operations with declining yields. For Kristine, they have lost yields in the last couple of years because things have either been too dry or too wet.

The impact of climate variability for farmers goes beyond the farm and their pockets as Kristine recounts how the changes are having a toll on their physical and mental health: “If it’s 35 degrees and humid, it is very different working conditions than 25 degrees, so its physically exhausting and it’s very stressful.”

 

 

To most farmers, giving up is not an option on the table: they love their jobs and have so much emotional and physical connection with their land. For Kristine, it is all about being innovative and devising new practices to better cope with the situation, while ensuring their operations have minimal environmental impacts. Such efforts include her investments in new infrastructure including greenhouses to reduce dependence on weather conditions, creating drainage facilities, and more localized approaches like digging a pond in the future to store water and attenuate the microclimate. However, Kristine thinks being resilient in the age of climate change means farmers must also look beyond the farm, a situation she describes as diversifying their operations. She resorts to making use of her skills beyond the farm by organizing workshops and training for home gardeners, as well as growing transplants for sale. Kristine’s efforts to diversify her revenue streams demonstrate a proactive approach to mitigating the effects of climate change.

Despite going the extra mile to become more resilient to climate change, Kristine fears for the future as she thinks conditions will only become worse. She highlights the need for external supports in order for individual farmers to be able to thrive, including a role for government and research institutions. Kristine sees education through experiential and demonstration models led by farmers as a way to help farms become resilient to climate change, and this cannot be achieved without financial support. She explains that it is only through directed farmer-led research that we can produce impactful knowledge responsive to the farm community.

 

Farmer-researchers in Iowa!

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By Rebecca Ivanoff and Greta Kryger

A week after our amazing EFAO conference and Farmer-led Research Symposium, we had the opportunity to travel to Ames, Iowa for the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) annual farmer-researcher gathering. This event is called the Cooperators’ Meeting, as cooperators are what they call their farmer-researchers. For those of you who are not aware, PFI’s mission is to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities. PFI is a broad and inclusive organization representing a diversity of farmers, with folks who raise corn and soybeans, hay, livestock, horticultural crops from fruits and vegetables to cut flowers and herbs, and more. Their members have conventional and organic systems; employ diverse management practices; run operations of all sizes; and come from a range of backgrounds. These farmers come together, however, because they are committed to moving their operations toward sustainability and because they believe in rigorous experimental design as a method of gaining insight into best practices to achieve this.

Held over two days, the Cooperators’ Meeting is where farmer-members of PFI gather to discuss past research and plan on-farm research for the following year. The Cooperators’ Meeting is an annual event rooted in the Practical Farmers philosophy of farmers generating independent solutions to on-farm challenges through farmer-led on-farm research and demonstration projects — and then sharing that knowledge freely with other farmers. It is the central place to ask new questions for future projects and set research priorities, with support from PFI staff. All farmer members of PFI are welcome to become participants, suggest research projects that they are interested in conducting, and join their peers to help decide the list of on-farm future research Practical Farmers will carry out over the next year.

While we have our Farmer-led Symposium on the Monday before the full EFAO conference, the PFI Cooperators’ meeting runs from noon on a Thursday to noon on a Friday. Folks arrive for lunch and are welcomed during the meal, and the afternoon begins with a joint session with one researcher reporting from the horticulture, field crop, and livestock sectors. This way the whole team gets an idea of the types of research that are being done by others in the whole group. This is important because the rest of the afternoon has concurrent breakout sessions by sector (Horticulture, Livestock, Field Crops). This latter part of the day was used for reporting from the previous years followed by generating new questions and finding the knowledge gaps.

The two-day-long event is punctuated by a dinner open to all members, as well as to academic and other institutional folks who work closely with the Cooperators on research. During our banquet dinner we were led through a Year-in-Review and then went around the room answering the question What are you curious about?, followed by a Keynote by a fellow researcher.

After a good night’s sleep with the ideas and questions running through our heads, we started the day with a Research Conversation Café where we were split into groups of folks from across the sectors as well as those who had been involved with PFI for differing lengths of time. Some folks have been doing research together since 1985! In these groups, we discussed on-farm research in small groups getting to know the challenges and opportunities that had presented themselves to farmer-researchers involved in this work in different ways.

The rest of the time, we were back in our concurrent breakout sessions working on the 2019 project design drafting and then reporting and critiquing these designs  & consensus. By the end of the session, many Cooperators had finished research designs submitted!

The closing Lunch and Remarks was a lovely way to end the event.

We appreciated the large number of Cooperators who were able to meet together and with the help of staff to answer questions, make critiques, and have a finished draft of a proposal by the end of the event. When we asked about the schedule for the Meeting, many cooperators emphasised that have it split over two days was very helpful.

PFI records many of the sessions during the Cooperators’ Meeting. You can find recorded sessions of the Cooperators’ Meeting here.

As part of the EFAO’s FLR program, we took our responsibility to represent the whole team as best we could. Though most of our time was spent with the Horticulture group, we both took a bit of time to check in with the other groups and ask questions you had sent along with us! We felt very welcomed and were encouraged to share our experiences, especially around areas that PFI has not been working in such as plant breeding. We have been asked to continue fostering the link between our groups as we all continue our important work.

***

EFAO’s collaboration with PFI was made possible with a grant from George Weston Limited and Loblaw Companies Limited. EFAO’s Farmer-led Research Program is made possible with funding from Ontario Trillium Foundation, an Agency of the Government of Ontario, George Weston Limited and Loblaw Companies Limited and Robert and Moira Sansom Ideas Foundation, a fund within London Community Foundation.

***

Introducing the 2018 EFAO Conference Art

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Caitlin Taguibao
“I am an illustrator, graphic designer and mural painter based in Toronto, Canada. I enjoy working with people who share similar ideas and interests in food growing, environmental stewardship and community engagement, and have spent time working in urban gardens and organic farms across Canada. I use flat colours and bold linework to create colourful compositions based out of plant lore and personal stories.”

Visit Caitlin Taguibao’s Website

What inspired this piece?
“In response to the theme of “Regeneration: Seeds, Soils & Community Connection”, I wanted to reflect on the cyclical nature of growing while highlighting soil life and soil diversity. Various characters interact with a spinach plant shown at different stages of life: from seed to sprout, to first leaves, growing upwards and then flowering to produce seed. All the while, a community of soil bacteria and critters actively exist below the ground; mycorrhizal connections are made under a waxing moon; a butterfly searches for late summer blooms. No human character is shown so that viewers may find themselves reflected in any of the living beings that are depicted, at any stage of the cycle, so that no role may be seen as more important than another but rather equally acknowledge and celebrated.”

Learn more about the 2018 EFAO Conference!

Trade Show & Sponsorship Opportunities

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Sponsorship opportunities for the 2018 EFAO Conference are now available, as well as registration for trade show table space!

  

In previous years, the EFAO Conference has seen more than 300 ecological farmers in attendance. With the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers’ Network holding their biennial conference in conjunction with EFAO’s 2018 conference, we expect to see the biggest turnout yet – making this a great opportunity for your farm-related business or organization to reach new customers.

Sponsorship gives your brand high visibility at the conference, as well as other perks depending on type of sponsorship. A presence at the trade show provides 2 days of direct personal interaction with conference attendees. Both sponsors and trade show vendors appear in the conference program.

Register today! View the 2018 Trade Show & Sponsorship package

Call for 2018 Conference Art!

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This year’s 5th annual Ecological Farmers of Ontario Conference will be held in London from December 4 – 6, 2018. We have started building another exciting program, inviting inspiring speakers, and planning a delicious menu!

Each year, the EFAO conference program and promotional materials showcase a work of art from an artist in the ecological farming community. Each piece reflects the conference theme, and also the diverse creative abilities of ecological farmers and their supporters.

We’re seeking artwork to illustrate this year’s conference theme, Regeneration: Seeds, Soils & Community Connection.  We invite artists and EFAO supporters to share a new or existing piece of art that might fit with the conference theme.

The selected artist will receive a full conference pass, and monetary compensation for their work.

Please be in touch with katie@efao.ca if you are interested in this opportunity.

Deadline for artwork samples is June 15, 2018.

Art, clockwise from the top left: the selected piece for the theme of “Our Living Soils” by Andrea Peplinski (2015), the selected piece for the theme of “Rebuilding Rural Economies From the Ground Up” by Jenna Kessler (2017), the selected piece for the theme of “Resilient Agriculture: Our Soils, Our Systems, Our Selves” by Bree Rappaport (2016), and the selected piece for the theme of “Celebrating 35 Years of Learning, Farming and Sharing” by Jessica Weatherhead (2014).