By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario
The Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA) has just launched a new tool to help expand the growing agriculture sector in the province’s North.
Its new website, FarmNorth, is a one-stop-shop for food and farming in the region and is designed to provide information for farmers and others in the agri-food sector looking to relocate to Northern Ontario.
“The cost of land in other parts of Ontario means people are interested in moving to Northern Ontario but many don’t know where to start,” explains NOFIA’s administrator Steph Vanthof of NOFIA. “We have many diverse districts within our area, and we want to give an accurate view of agriculture in the different areas of northern Ontario.”
The site, built in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, highlights the various districts in the North.
This includes geographical, land use classification and soil maps, weather, general agricultural information, Northern Ontario commodity contacts, a directory of businesses, a community section to showcase services and amenities, an agricultural calendar of events, and a “shop talk” forum for agricultural questions, advice and research.
There’s also a listing of agricultural research relative to each district, an aspect Vanthof says they’d like to expand into an archive of past research as well to ensure that new initiatives can build on work done previously.
Next steps include the addition of site pages for commodity organization and businesses that don’t have their own websites, testimonials and producer profiles, and Northern Ontario buy and sell and a real estate sections to help people looking to move north.
“We’re trying to show people that we have vibrant agriculture in the north, it’s just a little different from what it’s like in other parts of the province,” says Vanthof. “Yes, there are challenges to farming up here but also a lot of benefits and people are doing it across the North very successfully.”
Northern Ontario agriculture currently includes about 2,700 farms across Kenora, Rainy River, Thunder Bay, Algoma, Cochrane, Sudbury, Timiskaming, Nipissing, Parry Sound and Manitoulin with approximately $195 million in farm cash receipts.
NOFIA itself was formed in the spring of 2014 to co-ordinate and advance agricultural research and innovation in the North, emerging from the sector’s concern over potential closing of the agricultural research station in New Liskeard.
One of their other key activities is technology transfer and supporting research initiatives and projects in the North through co-ordinating funding applications and helping to source matching dollars for government funding programs.
This includes participating in biomass trials in Temiskaming, for example, and a project to develop industrial hemp varieties.
FarmNorth is accessible at www.farmnorth.com. The site was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists with delivery of GF2 in Ontario.