The Online Toolkit for Better Farming:
OMAFRA, the OFA and Other Lifesavers!
That may seem like a lacklustre title, but it really does say a lot.
All of the important online resources and links an Ontario farmer may need. This is a proper toolkit, one with as little mussing and fussing as possible.
And the key to "better farming"- if we may be so bold as to suggest one- is to make good use of these resources... Always be learning, and be aware of opportunities. Be willing to think and try new things.
Better farming is: good people helping each other.
It looks a lot like a great, big round table; like conversations and firm handshakes... Like a strong pot of coffee and fresh cream from the farm...
And better farming feels good.
Okay, the farm work itself does come into the equation at some point... But don't be too dismissive of the people and organizations around you, and their ability to make the job easier. The more resources you have at your disposal, as a rural Ontario business owner, the better your farm will be.
That is the key. Use these resources...
Don't just buy a copy of the Old Farmer's Almanac and then put it on a shelf for the next year. Don't pay the membership fees for a few helpful organizations, like the OFA or the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, and then fail to take advantage of their promotions and services.
Be active in your participation, and always be ready for a good opportunity.
As 4H Ontario (one of our frequent recommendations) has so proudly instructed for over a century: "Learn to do by doing." To loosely translate that into our simple toolkit terms:
Learn better farming by first, and always, being the best farmer you can be.
So if you have a dozen organizations and tools at your fingertips- most of them free, and all of them worth it- but you don't use a single one... Can you honestly say that you're being the best farmer you can be?
Tool #1! OMAFRA, and Agri-Food Canada.
That sounds a lot like two tools, doesn't it?
Yes, of course it's two separate agencies... We're not daft!
But there is a reason for the grouping. These are the two most important resources- period- for Ontario farms. Both government funding, regulation and education agencies: one National and the other Provincial.
And they are both absolute powerhouses of information!
No overstatement... Not even a slight embellishment. These two websites- and the countless resources to which they link- will keep you busy for weeks.
Let's start with the Provincial powerhouse...
OMAFRA, or the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
This is the headquarters for everything regulatory in the Ontario farming universe!
With the mission of empowering Ontario’s rural communities, OMAFRA provides business support to farmers, enforces and improves food safety, and generally works to develop strong and sustainable agricultural and agri-food sectors.
It really is nearly impossible to tell you everything the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs actually does though. Their website is a very big place too. The following link will send you to the OMAFRA publications page...
And- holy moly- it’s extensive!
Have a good look around, and find all the areas that affect you. make sure you bookmark the most important pages for quick reference later.
Find a comfy seat, and your fine-toothed comb...
Then head on over to that [OMAFRA publications page] I was talking about.
Or start at their [HOME PAGE].
They have a blog/newsletter/podcast resource page [HERE] too…
And one blog we think you may enjoy is the [ONAg Business Blog],
and the newsletter by a similar name: [ONAg Business Update Newsletter].
(weeks later: dishes and laundry piled to the ceiling, farm animals patiently planning their revolt…)
Phew! Nice work, but that's only the beginning.
So get your farmhouse into shape (and your livestock back in line, for God’s sake)!
Make yourself presentable... Because you're about to meet OMAFRA's boss!
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
And a calm fills the room. Because the AAFC is in the house!
[Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is the National Supreme Leader of everything agriculture (and agri-food). BQ]
That is our official summary of Agri-Food Canada... And why not? Their scope, as stated on the website, spans "from the farmer to the consumer, from the farm to global markets, through all phases of producing, processing and marketing of farm, food and bio-based products."
It doesn't stop there though.
Remember: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is OMAFRA's boss...
"The Department works closely with provincial and territorial governments in the development and delivery of policies and programs," their mandate continues.
The AAFC also closely collaborates with other regulatory Portfolio Partners, including: the Canadian Dairy Commission, Farm Credit Canada and and the Farm Products Council of Canada.
So, yeah... they are busy, busy, BUSY bees!
And you will be too, when you head over to the Agri-Food Canada website. But allow us to send you to a few specifically helpful places, and then you can roam around if need be.
First, go to the page listing all the [Agri-Food Canada Publications]. Wow.
Then, you really should sign up for [the Agri-Info Newsletter]... It’s a really good one.
They have a Science page too with lots of links. Take a peek [HERE http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/news/scientific-achievements-in-agriculture/?id=1379013177194].
Next up: two organizations that fight to keep the big bosses in line.
We'll call them the advocates...
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and the OFA
As Ontario farming communities, we owe a lot to the few advocacy groups working for us.
From the grassroots, to the Provincial government, to the highest echelons of Canadian Parliament, both the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture seek always to maintain a fair regulatory environment while improving the safety, profitability and productivity of Canadian farms.
Both are obviously government service agencies...
But, while the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is a free information-based website, the OFA- while still being a wealth of free information- also has an affordable paid Membership option which opens up new resources and advertising opportunities.
These are two links you will definitely want to have a look at.
Head over to the [Canadian Federation of Agriculture website https://www.cfa-fca.ca]. They have an outstanding Resources page that would be a good place to start. [CLICK HERE https://www.cfa-fca.ca/resources/#Advocacy Resources] to check it out first.
And then go to [the Ontario Federation of Agriculture website https://ofa.on.ca]. If you would like to join the OFA, [CLICK HERE https://ofa.on.ca/join-ofa/] and we’ll take you there.
Research on Steroids: The Canadian Agriculture Library, and Dalhousie
For the record: there are a lot of good research tools on this page (and elsewhere on the website too)... But these two links we’re about to bestow upon you…
Holy Mother of All that is Agricultural!
These are the kinds of research tools that can tell you anything about anything.
So they actually don’t need much description at all. Bookmark both of these websites, and use them religiously when you need to know more about, umm… pretty much anything.
The Canadian Agriculture Library, a member of the Federal Science Library, is exactly that: a science library about Canadian Agriculture.
It has been compiling this research since 1910, so, needless to say, it’s extensive!
So [GO THERE RIGHT NOW http://science-libraries.canada.ca/eng/agriculture/], and bookmark it. When you search from this page, make sure you check the box that only collects results from within the Canadian Agriculture Library.
The second research tool, although not quite as extensive or longstanding, is certainly no slouch either…
The Organic Agricultural Centre of Canada, at Dalhousie University
A National research and education organization since 2001, based at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Truro, Nova Scotia, The Organic Agricultural Centre of Canada collaborates with just about everybody you can think of to do high quality research on a wide range of agricultural topics.
So why don’t we just say: it is a very, very large collection of research and analysis. Their multi-year Science Clusters alone will provide you with enough reading material for several months.
Much like the Canadian Agriculture Library before this, please [GO TO THE OACC NOW https://www.dal.ca/faculty/agriculture/oacc/en-home.html] and bookmark it. Return often to learn.
These two websites combined will give you the approximate equivalent education of four Doctorates and one and a half Bachelors. No diplomas though, unfortunately...
And if you’re no doctor, then you’d best learn to depend on the people who know, and care, about the health of your farm…
Farm and Food Care Ontario… For the Complicated Things.
It’s funny though… They are featured elsewhere on the site for a few wonderful children’s resources, like their annual [Farm Creativity Contest].
But Farm and Food Care Ontario is an animal and environmental health specialty service organization, essentially. Anything relating to animal care and emergencies, and a good amount of information about water and soil health… And these are common gaps in the knowledge found on many of the other websites we’ve seen in our research travels.
They have a robust Membership program as well, which opens up other service, information and event opportunities… But membership is not a prerequisite to making good use of the website!
And their extension beyond this animal and environmental niche is not, however, limited to the kids contest we mentioned.
Farm and Food Care has an active Speakers’ Program and an interesting annual feature event called “Breakfast on the Farm”. And they have a long list of such unique and fun resources: more kids stuff, free Ag-Ambassador materials, “Did You Know?” Canadian farming infographics, and more. It is also the organization which produces the little, intimate Ontario agriculture blog called “The Real Dirt on Farming”.
So random- every bit of it- but we are huge fans!
So check out any or all of these links:
[THE REAL DIRT ON FARMING BLOG http://www.realdirtblog.ca/]
[FARM AND FOOD CARE ONTARIO HOME PAGE http://www.farmfoodcareon.org/]
FOLLOW THEM ON [TWITTER https://twitter.com/FarmFoodCareON] AND [FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/FarmFoodCare/]
[THE RANDOM RESOURCES PAGE http://www.farmfoodcareon.org/resources/]
There is one much smaller organization that has made it to this first page of resources, our “Top Tools for Better Farming” page, and you’ll see that it’s justified. Perhaps it should even be higher on the list.
The Wonder That Is FarmLINK.net
It is a wonderful website, and a brilliant concept! An online resource to connect Canadian farmers and farm operators directly to those who are looking to own, manage or work on a farm.
FarmLINK.net has lots of other resources too, like a well-written blog and some great webinars. Have a look around (it’s an easy site to navigate), but we’re going to start you off at their extensive [RESOURCE DATABASE https://farmlink.net/resources/resource-database].
FarmLINK is one of those small Ontario farming initiatives that needs active participation and community support. An we really want it to succeed in a big way! Organizations like FarmLINK make better farming, and better communities, possible if we work together.
So get on there and list your farms, or reach out to current member farms. Participate.
Use the link above, or go to the [HOME PAGE https://farmlink.net/] and look around.
There is one more resource that surprised us a bit.
Not the biggest organization, and not one of the first ones to pop up in searches and directories. But it has quickly become one of our favourite resources on this list.
Real Agriculture. Period.
And we like the name… Clear, minimalistic. It’s a refreshing departure from the myriad of monotonous acronyms and aggrandizements.
And it’s all farming journalism: an incessant, very high quality flow of articles, videos and podcasts about subjects that are uncharted by the vast majority of resources out there for Ontario farmers. And place emphasis not only on the very cool and helpful resources below, but the crop schools. They are amazing!
And they have some static content too, like their crop schools. These are sections dedicated to each individual type of crop, and they are loaded with information! There are livestock sections as well.
But the real gem at Real Agriculture is the daily reporting, the mountain of information on so many subjects. The archives are… just, umm... wow.
Speechless (and that’s rare for us)...
Nutshell: accounting for all categories, to say that they are prolific writers would be like saying the Pope is a wee bit religious. If Stephen King and Danielle Steel had quintuplets who all became agricultural journalists, their combined output would still pale in comparison to the good folks at Real Agriculture!
Yeah… How do you like them apples?!
So if you like reading a dozen relevant posts every day (or just a few unique pieces of content here and there), or maybe you’re into listening to programming that matters to you and your rural Ontario community… Just click something below!
[The Real Agriculture Home Page https://www.realagriculture.com] is a good place to start.
And follow them [ON FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/realagmedia/] too!
[The Archives https://www.realagriculture.com/archives/] are packed solid with good stuff.
[The Farm Management Archives https://www.realagriculture.com/category/farm-management/], for sound advice.
[The Mind Your Farm Business Podcast Transcript Archives https://www.realagriculture.com/category/podcasts/mind-your-farm-business-myfb/] is a blog-style version of this helpful farm finance and management program, but you can subscribe to the podcast in any format.
[The RealAg Radio Show on SiriusXM https://www.realagriculture.com/category/realag-radio/]. This page is in the same blog-style format so you can read the transcripts… But feel free to listen on channel 147 on SiriusXM, Monday to Friday at 4pm Eastern.
The last category in this online toolbox for better farming is not really about farming at all, but is still very much an integral part of our rural Ontario communities.
And it gives the list a certain symmetry, it seems: fatefully circling back around to the agricultural fair itself, and our agricultural societies...
The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, and the OAAS
These Associations are important to us, as the [Maberly Agricultural Society- link to people page], but will be of much less import to the average Ontario farmer.
The OAAS is the governing body, and an advocate, for all the agricultural societies in Ontario. They provide "leadership through communication and education," as their Mission Statement proclaims.
Again, perhaps not a relevant tool for many of you...
It's still worth a peek though, we think. Good information can never hurt, and expanding our knowledge base is certainly part of the better farming equation.
Take a quick peek at [the OAAS website https://ontarioagsocieties.com/], or you can read more about it on our [People page https://maberly-fair.ca/people].
Who knows: you might even be involved with your local agricultural society, or at least be an occasional patron of the fair...
That's the ticket!
The Agricultural Fair is how most communities get to know their local Ag Societies.
And C.A.F.E. is All About the Fair!
Right down to the physical admission tickets for the fair, in fact, and the entertainment and the food...
Every aspect of the country fair itself: that's the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions' wheelhouse. It's right in their name... I mean, come on!
Established in 1924, and representing a wide variety of fairs across Canada over the years- from small rural fairs like ours to large city exhibitions- and forming strategic partnerships with Provincial agencies, agricultural societies and fair service providers...
The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions has been doing their thing for a very long time. So if you're an organizer or volunteer for your local Agricultural Fair, or just an interested member of your local Agricultural Society...
[The C.A.F.E. website http://www.canadian-fairs.ca] will definitely come in handy. And they have a very good [Fair News page http://www.canadian-fairs.ca/en/fair-news/] with lots of good information, as well as spotlights on individual fairs.
And that’s all the recommendations we have for Page 1.
For real, no kidding... But this isn't actually the worst place to leave it. All of the resources with which you've just become acquainted are more on the regulatory, support, funding, advocacy and education side of things...
Super-duper important, yes. But not one of them would surpass a 4.1 on the fun scale! And wouldn't you say having fun is one of the requisites for better farming?
Alas, page 2...
Better Farming: The Lighter Side
Rural clubs and activities for kids, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, blogs, a few great books and magazines, and more! While this first page provides practical information for better farming, the next one will do its very best to foster a happier and more enlightened Ontario farmhouse.
Speaking of magazines: if you expected to see the Better Farming magazine here… That makes sense. We totally get it, and we’re sorry.
We do, however, feature it on Page 2.
But before you check that out, we just want to remind you of a few of our own resources here on The Maberly Agricultural Society website. We are here, after all- in Lanark County and online- to actually be a helpful resource and not just to recommend them.
You can, of course, sign up for The Maberly Fair on our [Registration Page]. Learn more about this year’s features and exhibits by reading [THE FAIR BOOK https://a2ss55.a2hosting.com:2083/cpsess6835992293/frontend/paper_lantern/filemanager/showfile.html?file=Maberly+Fair+Book+2017+FINAL+No+Ads.pdf&fileop=&dir=%2Fhome%2Flatemarc%2Fmaberly-fair.ca&dirop=&charset=&file_charset=&baseurl=&basedir=]
Or you can check out our [List of Ontario Fairs and Festivals] to find a fair closer to you.
We also have a Resource Page you may like, dedicated to all things [From Farm to Fork].
And you can always read our most recent stories and developments on [Our Blog].
Keep your eyes peeled for updates to these Resource pages... or bookmark them to keep things easy breezy.
Ready, set... See you on [PAGE 2]!
i. "What We Do - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)." Agr.Gc.Ca, 2016, http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/about-us/what-we-do/?id=1360700688523.
ii. Board, OAAS et al. "Ontario Association Of Agricultural Societies." Ontarioagsocieties.Com, 2018, https://ontarioagsocieties.com/.