From a Release, By Lilian Schaer for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association
Protecting species at risk and preventing soil erosion led the Van Nes family of Stratford to improve a stream crossing on a cash crop farm they own near St Mary’s along Trout Creek. The creek, which flows through their property, drains into the Thames River.
They were successful in accessing cost-share funding through the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP), which enabled them to replace an old pathway, which led directly through the stream, with a culvert.
“You have to cross through Trout Creek in order to get to some of the other fields and we’d also been working on some other projects there to prevent soil erosion, which meant there’s a lot of water now flowing through there,” explains Marg Van Nes. “There was a crossing there before but it led directly through the stream, which is not a good idea. It was something that had to be done.”
So last fall they installed a culvert, including putting down some netting to keep the soil in place and prevent it from being washed away. Van Nes is pleased with the outcome: it’s now easier to access the rest of their fields, it minimizes soil run off and it helps protect the stream – and the species that live there – from new ruts caused by equipment crossing.
“If we can do things on our property to make improvements, then everybody along the stream will benefit and we’ll all have cleaner water,” she says.
In order to qualify for cost-share funding through SARFIP, eligible Ontario farm businesses had to have a completed third or fourth edition Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and have selected at least one of the eligible Best Management Practices from the SARFIP list.
Although funding was previously allocated on a first come, first served basis, the program’s cost-share design in 2013 focused efforts on activities that directly support Species at Risk, which Van Nes says is a simple approach that worked well for her family’s project.
“The merit-based approach helps identify projects that are necessary, especially if you have land running along a waterway,” she says. “There are many species that are at risk and if you have any of those species on your property, there is a lot you can do on-farm to protect them without taking farm land out of production.”
She encourages other farmers to consider applying for funding through the program, adding that potentially more projects could be eligible for cost-share funding than many people realize especially if they farm near water.
“Call and ask questions. This is all new to everybody but we have many species at risk that we don’t realize and unless you look, you won’t know what you have and what you might qualify for,” she explains. “I’ve been farming for 30 years and there have been a lot of other processes that have been a lot harder than this one.”
There are currently over 200 species considered to be in decline in Ontario; many of their habitats exist on privately owned agricultural land. A list of Ontario’s Species at Risk is available on the Ministry of Natural Resources’ website.
SARFIP provided cost-share funding for farmers to implement Best Management Practices that helped protect essential habitats of Species at Risk located on-farm. The range of possible activities under the program applied to croplands, grasslands, riparian areas, wetlands and woodlands.
In 2013, SARFIP was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and the Government of Canada through the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species At Risk. SARFIP was linked to the Canada-Ontario EFP that was supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food through Growing Forward 2.
The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association delivered the program to agricultural producers. Interested applicants are encouraged to check the OSCIA website for program announcements for the 2014 growing season. More information on SARFIP is available at www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/species_at_risk.htm.
For more information, contact Christine Schmalz, Senior Environmental Programs Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (519) 826-6062.