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
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!
Early Bird Rates in effect until November 6th
4th Annual Ecological Farmers of Ontario Conference
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!
Tools and Design for the Market Garden
Having only started our farm operation in 2015, I thought this workshop came at an ideal time when I am currently building and planning to build tools to improve my own efficiency. The inspiration contained within was a courtesy of Ken Laing (of Orchard Hill Farm) and Jeff Boesch (of Cedar Down Farm), with both presenters sharing some of their custom tool building that aims to increase efficiency on their respective farms.
Jeff seems to be operating a farm very similar to our own, only greater in size and scope. He talked about his bed maker and row marker (very interesting as we also work with permanent beds, however we do not have a bed maker/marker at the moment). His design is simple and cost effective, though I personally wondered why he used a steel plate as a level instead of a cage roller (or similar roller), which I think would be lighter in weight and better at breaking soil clumps. Regardless, we were certainly inspired by this design, especially the row markers he built on a set of spring at the back of the implement. We also recently built a row cover and drip tape spooler that borrows ideas both from Jeff’s and Ken’s designs which works rather well. Speaking of the latter, his low cost hoop house design was interesting with its roll-up door that allows for easy ventilation of the structure. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference, such as how Ken welded small metal hooks onto his caterpillar tunnel’s posts to hook the rope onto, or the hooks that hold up the plastic cover to aerate the tunnel (an idea he himself borrowed from another farmer). However, Ken’s best work lies in his custom built horse-drawn implements that are so well thought out as to think they were commercially made. Some of the tools he uses are built from scratch, some are existing implements that he modified to fit his production system and equipment. One could say he has taken the plunge in terms of no-till soil management as he has already created or modified several implements in the last couple of years in order to reduce the amount of tillage that he typically would rely on. There are countless examples on Ken’s farm of ingenious contraptions that were built from scratch or subtle modifications to pre-existing implements that have greatly increased their efficiency.
Choosing Ken and Jeff as presenters was an interesting choice as the former could be considered a well-seasoned farmer (with over 30 years experience) and the latter as a younger farmer (with about 10 years of experience). Their approach to farming may be different, but the resourcefulness that farming requires reveals a kind of universal truth. Both use limited means and materials to solve a problem that is specific to their own production system, giving birth to ideas and corner-of-the-table sketches that, at the end of the day, they find their farm could not live without. This is perhaps best exemplified by Ken’s simple but effective wheel stirrup hoe, created 30 years ago with some wood and metal, and still used in his fields to this day.
Show Me The Money: A Conversation with Money Lenders
In this session questions were posed to money lenders that provided on the spot answers. The session was chaired by the Founder and Executive Director of FarmStart, Christie Young. The money lenders also offered a 5 minute presentation each on the lending products that their organization offers. Here is a summary of that presentation:
Options for farmers with experience:
Scotiabank offers three products: Scotia Flex for agriculture, Scotia Farm Legacy, and OFA partnerships. The also promise the services of a small business advisor who has farm experience. The Flex line of credit services offers credit for a mortgage, equipment purchase, credit line and credit card. However for a new farmer the requirement of a minimum of two years of experience in farming can prove to be a barrier. There is the option to get over this barrier through finding a co-borrower with farming experience that can provide the bank with the assurance that the new farmer has the support and advice needed to be successful.
Scotiabank also offers bonus rates and discounts on agricultural accounts through a OFA (Ontairo Federation of Agriculture) partnership. There are GIC bonus rates, a 15% discount on account plans for agriculture, 0.25% interest rate reduction on farm credit products and reduced legal appraisal costs.
Libro offers farmer services in current accounts, farm mortgages and lines of credit/term loans. What comes with all of these services is the local management of your account, financial advice, local decision making and a fast turnaround on loan decisions. With their commitment to building south western Ontario communities they offer not-for-profit community accounts without monthly fees. They also boast further investment in the community through a Prosperity Fund, Student Awards, and a youth leadership camp (CYL) plus sponsorship and donation programs.
Options for retiring farmers:
Scotiabank’s Farm Legacy Program offers successional planning for retiring farmers to pass a business onto new farmers. The program mostly deals in family wealth management needs. The Scotiabank advisor will assess the financial situation and develop personalized recommendations and present solutions to the farmers. After this the advisor will assist with the implementation of this strategy.
Options for new and young farmers:
FCC offers a young farmer loan for producers under 40. The FCC boasts their lending strategy is in developing strong partnerships with clients that lends eventually to long term success. Clients are judged on character, capacity, commitment, conditions and collateral. A strong credit score and a well-developed business plan can help you purchase up to $500,000 in farm assets.
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) has a farmer Transition Loan that allows new farmers to purchase an existing farm and build equity fast. Through managed cash flow the new farmer pays off a fraction of the total loan each year making payments easier. For example through the program if a 500,000$ farm is purchased the current landowner will receive $100,000/year and the new farmer pays for a loan of only $100,000 for the first year. The loan will increase $100,000 each year as the current owner is paid out. Sellers must be willing to agree to the arrangement and are guaranteed by the FCC to eventually receive the full amount.
Scotiabank also offers a mortgage with a 5% down payment and up to 80% financing. You eventually have to make up the 20% over the years to the current farm owner.
Q and A:
Why is it that someone can receive a mortgage for a recreational property but someone applying for a mortgage to develop a farm on the same property is rejected?
Libro – credit union would consider the application but the applicant would need an excellent credit rating, some cash flow and a business plan that includes off farm income that is sufficient to pay the loan.
FCC – would also consider the loan if you have demonstrated that your cash flow is sufficient to make payments. Unfortunately southern Ontario land is often over valued because of its location which makes it hard to produce a business plan sufficient to pay off these loans through farming alone.
What makes a strong business plan?
A basic business plan should include your assets and liabilities, your projected cash flow and a great communication piece (description of your plan).
At FCC clients are judged on character, capacity, commitment, conditions and collateral. This can all come out through your first meeting and business plan. Capacity can be shown through the clients pre-existing knowledge of farming and the ability to pay back the loan. They are also judged by how realistic their business plan is presenting realistic numbers providing a business projection with optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic numbers. Commitment for every $1 in debt you have you should have $1 net worth debt = equity. You should also show through a thoroughly prepared business plan to prove your investment in success. Conditions refers to marketplace conditions. The FCC likes to make sure that you are viable in today’s markets, not future markets. They would also like to see proof of how you will solve your crop failure problems. Collateral means that for every loan there must be security. For a land loan this can equal land security for equipment loans this can be equipment security. Loans for seeds etc. can be hard to acquire because there is no security in this type of loan.
A safe investment for the bank (i.e. a loan likely to be approved) would show that the ratio of debt:net worth = 1.5. Additionally banks would like to see that the ratio of income available:debt payments = 2.5 (5% of your available credit cards and line of credit is considered debt and is included in your debt)
OMFARA doesn’t have metrics for unique crops, what can farmers do to make money lenders understand?
Libro – is always willing to listen be taught these metrics
FCC – learns about the industry all the time and if you present a good plan and teach the lender about the business they are open to it. However they need to feel assured that you are viable in today’s market.
There are new opportunities in peer to peer crowd sourcing platforms to launch a business.
Capacity can be shown through the clients pre-existing knowledge of farming and the ability to pay back the loan. They are also judged by how realistic their business plan is presenting realistic numbers providing a business projection with optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic numbers.
Commitment for every $1 in debt you have you should have $1 net worth debt = equity. You should also show through a thoroughly prepared business plan to prove your investment in success.
Conditions refers to marketplace conditions. The FCC likes to make sure that you are viable in today’s markets, not future markets. They would also like to see proof of how you will solve your crop failure problems.
Collateral means that for every loan there must be security. For a land loan this can equal land security for equipment loans this can equal equipment security. Loans for seeds etc. can be hard to acquire because there is no security in this type of loan.
Summary by EFAO member Skye Vandenberg