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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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How much does land cost?
Agricultural land rates in Ontario vary greatly depending on the location. Southern Ontario is generally more expensive. The more north you go, agricultural land becomes cheaper. For example, one acre of land in southern Ontario can cost anywhere from $10,000 – 20,000 to purchase. In northern Ontario, it can be $3,000 – 5,000. Renting land in southern Ontario can be about $120 per acre per year, whereas in northern Ontario it can cost about $50-60 per acre per year. Please remember that these are just estimates. Prices will vary depending on zoning regulations and their proximity to urban centres. It is worth noting that the more north you go, the growing season is shorter. This is why you see a lot more livestock production in northern parts and more vegetable and fruit production in southern parts. Also, farmers in southern Ontario generally have better access to markets then those in the north.
Is there any way to get land for free?
Conventionally, land is exchanged for money. However, some retired farmers are willing to provide land for free or in exchange for other services. For some farmers are willing to provide land in exchange for a basket of vegetables or for help maintaining the house or farm. This is not a very common practice, but it does exist. If you are a land seeker, please sign up to FarmLINK, where informal relations and exchanged, such as the ones mentioned above, take place.
Is there any financial assistance available to new farmers?
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of financial assistance available to farmers in Ontario. Currently, the government does not provide any grants to new farmers. However, there are cost sharing programs available. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is currently offering the Growing Forward program. This program offers cost sharing programs for the business side of farming such as developing your farm business plan. You have to first take a workshop and only after the workshop will you be eligible for cost sharing. For more info go to: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/growingforward/index.htm
What is the quota system?
In Canada, growing chickens for either egg production or meat, growing turkeys for meat and raising cattle for milk operates under a system called supply management. Each type of production is controlled by marketing boards. This means that if you want to partake in any of these farming enterprises, you have to purchase a quota. There are some exceptions. For example, a farmer can raise up to 300 chickens for meat and 100 chickens for laying eggs. For more information, please go to
What is a Regional Information Coordinator (RIC)?
Every region in Ontario has a RIC. The RIC is your local OMAFRA representative and distributes various agricultural information to those who sign up to their newsletters. Your RIC can provide you with various workshops, meetings, courses and OMAFRA updates that are happening in your area. Please contact OMAFRA to find out who the name and contact info of your RIC.
Where do I get my soil tested?
A soil test can provide you with a wide range of information. A soil test gives you a better idea of soil fertility and what nutrients are present or absent in your soil. There is a cost for soil tests. Please remember that the cost will vary on the laboratory and the amount and type of information you receive from your soil test also depends on the laboratory you use. For a list of laboratories that do soil tests, please go to: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/resource/soillabs.htm
How do I register my farming business?
You can register your farm business with Agricorp. There is various paper work and fees associated with registering your farming business. Please note that you are not obligated to register your farm business to start farming in Ontario. If your farm business earns more than $7,000 in gross farm income, you are legally obligated to register your business. For more information, go to https://www.farmbusreg.com/.
What is the best way to get farming knowledge fast?
Our experience shows that the best way to obtain farming knowledge is getting your hands dirty. Volunteering, doing an internship or working on a farm are the best ways to learn how to farm and how to run a farming business. Visiting farms and taking various workshops and courses will also provide you with essential knowledge about running a farming business.
Are there any programs or help for new Canadians who want to start farming?
Unfortunately, there are no programs specific to new Canadians who want to start farming. However, there are many farmers who were born in other countries that farm in Canada. We suggest that a new Canadian, without or with farming experience in their home country, gains some experience faming in Canada before they fully dedicate themselves to farming. The growing conditions and regulations around food production vary from those in other countries. As such, it is important to become familiar with those before committing to starting a farming business. For further resources for new farmers, please go to our resources page http://www.farmstart.ca/explorer/explorer-resources/.
As a charitable, non-governmental organization, how does FarmStart survive?
FarmStart operates on grants received from various foundations and the government. We also hold some fundraising events and accept donations form the public. The money we charge for our workshops, courses and farm tours are used to pay for the expenses of organizing that particular event, such as the facilitator, the food, materials and so on.
Does FarmStart support farmers financially?
We have in the past supported farmers financially. The money we provide to farmers are loans that they have to pay back in either money or other formats, such as donating vegetables to a food bank or donating their time to educate an aspiring or new farmer. The amount and conditions of the funding available to farmers varies from year to year, as it depends on the type of grants or donations we receive.
Can FarmStart help aspiring/new farmers outside the south central region of Ontario?
The ways in which FarmStart can help those outside the south central region of Ontario is limited. We do not have any Incubator Farms outside this region. Most of our workshops are also offered in this region. However, we have offered workshops and courses as far as Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Owen Sound and London.
Is there a FarmStart in other provinces?
Currently, we do not have a FarmStart outside of the province. As a result of the increasing interest in FarmStart services in other provinces, we are in the process of developing a model that can be transferred to other provinces. We are currently in talks with several partners in British Columbia about starting a FarmStart there.
What is the difference between organic and ecological farming?
There are no fixed definitions of organic or ecological farming. These definitions are very much disputed. However, as a standard, when a farmer says they are farming organically, they usually mean that they follow organic principles, including not using pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms and growth hormones. Please remember there is a lot more to organic than what is mentioned above. Also, if a farmer says they are organic, they are not necessarily certified organic. An ecological farmer attempts to follow organic principles as much as they can, but is more flexible in following the principles.
What is the process of organically certifying my farm?
Certified organic refers to products that follow organic standards that are established by a certifying body. A farmer wishing to be certified organic must apply to a certification body. A careful inspection of the farm will follow. Please contact one of the certifying bodies for further details. Some of the certifying bodies in Ontario include:
Pro-Cert Organic http://www.pro-cert.org
What is a Start Up Farm?
The Start Up Farm allows people interested in farming to start farming at a low risk and low cost. We provide the land, equipment, machinery and mentorship. It allows aspiring farmers to start learn from other farmers and try farming without making a large investment. There are different stages of the Start Up Farm. The first stage of the incubator farm in the test-cropper, who receives 0.25 acres of land. Based on our assessment at the end of the season, we will determine if the person is fit for receiving more land. If so, they receive 1 acre the following year. Again, based on our assessment and availability of land, we may or may not provide more land as the years pass. The Start Up Farm model is such that farmers leave within a 6 year period, to allow other farmers to experience the same opportunities that they did.
How do I start farming at the Start Up Farms?
There is an application process to start farming at the Start Up Farms. The application covers topics such as crop plan, labour plan and marketing strategies. The process begins by sending us an email illustrating your interest in the program. We will then try to meet with you in person and discuss in further detail your farming plans and access whether you are suitable for the program. If we feel you are, we will encourage you to put forth an application. The deadline for the application will be January 15 of each year. The land committee will access the applications and will determine who will be offered a position at one of the Start Up Farms. For further details on the application process please go to: http://www.farmstart.ca/programs/start-up-farms/to-apply/
Is there a fee for farming at the Start Up Farms?
Yes, there is a fee for taking part at the Start Up Farms. This year, farmers on average are paying about $300-400 for the season. This fee will depend on the amount of land you have. The fee is used to cover fuel for the tractor, machinery and equipment maintenance, irrigation, and farm maintenance and improvement. Some of the fees are fixed and some are not, meaning the farmer can opt out from them. Considering the cost of land in the area and the equipment and mentorship provided by the farm manager, we feel this fee is appropriate and manageable.
Does FarmStart offer courses outside the Guelph, GTA area?
Yes, FarmStart does offer courses outside these regions. We have offered courses in Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Owen Sound and London. We are always looking at offering courses in other regions. Please go to the following link for a list of courses and workshops: http://www.farmstart.ca/programs/training/workshops/
Is there any way of FarmStart running a workshop/course in my area?
If there is a specific course or workshop that you would like us to offer in your region, please let us know and we will take it into consideration for the future.