Tag Archives: OTF

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

The “dirt” on Farmer-led Research Program Information Session and Next Steps!

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Over 25 farmers attended the Farmer-led Research Program Information Session at the Guelph Organic Conference on January 31st to share what makes them curious on their farms and ideas for research trials in 2016. It was exciting to see and hear from such a curious and outspoken group!


The Session started with the What, why, when and how?? of farmer-led on-farm research, including some inspirational quotes from long-time farmer-researchers south of the border.

“[On-farm research] is a flexible and affordable tool to get the reliable answers”

“It gives you ownership of research and results”

and clips from The Masters of On-Farm Research by Practical Farmers of Iowa.


Arguably, however, the most exciting part of the morning was the brainstorming session.


Participants divided by sector – Horticulture and Livestock/Field Crops. Farmers in the two groups shared and discussed research questions and ranked topics as a way to set research priorities for 2016, paying close attention to the fact that trial design and data collection are on a tight timeline this year due the timing of our funding. The Horticulture group ranked cover crops, intercropping and soil amendments as top research topics, while the Livestock/Field Crops group worked on discussing and designing a multi-farm comparison of different soil health tests. You can see the full list of research questions and topics here.


While the research projects are conceived and carried out by farmers on their farms, we need help selecting trials. This is the role of the Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel, comprised of EFAO farmers (Thorsten Arnold, Paul DeJong, Angie Koch, Ken Laing, Darrel Roes) and University and non-profit partners (Dr. Ralph Martin/U of Guelph, and Aabir Dey/The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security), meets this month to guide project selection and, when needed, trial design. Expect to hear more in March about the Advisory Panel’s meeting.


Given the broad interest cover crops, we are forming a Cover Crops Working Group for vegetable or field crop production. Contact Sarah, sarah@efao.ca, to be added to the group or for more information.


Find more information about the Farmer-led Research Program on our webpage!

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?”


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


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

Free, just pre-register here!

Contact: Sarah Hargreaves, sarah@efao.ca