Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Organic Perspective Production
Exploring incentives for regenerative practices


July 7, 2020
By Meg Roberts, Organic Council of Ontario

Topics
The principles of regenerative agriculture are based on improving soil health, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, improved animal welfare, and social and economic resiliency. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Funding to implement regenerative and ecological improvements exists at the regional, provincial, and national levels. But how do producers and landowners access the funding available to them?

The Organic Council of Ontario is undertaking a Regenerative Programs and Incentives Feasibility Study that explores the feasibility of emerging regenerative certification programs in Ontario, like the Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) by the Savory Institute and the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) by the Rodale Institute. Many initiatives already exist in Canada to encourage the adoption of ecological farm practices, but it can be difficult for producers to find and access the appropriate funding. Additionally, funding may fluctuate year to year.

This article provides guidance for producers to identify potential regenerative improvements and practices for their operation, and the complementary funding opportunities that may exist to support their implementation.

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What are regenerative and ecological improvements and why should you pursue them?

The principles of regenerative agriculture are based on improving soil health, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, improved animal welfare, and social and economic resiliency.

Many widely-used regenerative and organic practices, such as incorporating natural composts, cover cropping, and reduced tillage greatly improve the overall land ecosystem. The use of these practices can provide both economic and environmental benefit through increased biodiversity, drought and flood resilience, and soil health leading to higher yields and a greater capacity to sequester carbon.

What type of improvements or practices fall under the ecological and regenerative funding umbrella?

These are just a few examples of improvements and practices that producers may be able to receive funding for:

  • Adding organic amendments to the soil
  • Shifting to no-till or reduced till practices
  • Planting cover crops and crop rotations
  • Planting windbreaks and shelterbelts to effectively protect crops against strong winds
  • Fencing to incorporate rotational grazing of livestock
  • Retiring fragile land (severely eroded land) by seeding it to permanent vegetative cover
  • Improving manure storage facilities
  • Restoring riparian zones by planting wetland plant species for stream bank stabilization against erosion, runoff filtration and increased biodiversity
  • Planting trees and native species to provide habitat for endangered species
  • Watershed protection improvements such as stream crossings and managing runoff

Organizations and governments offer differing incentive programs of varying amounts and types of funding such as grants or cost-share programs.

Producers can receive funding for practices such as fencing to incorporate rotational grazing of livestock. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Considerations and tips for success

  • Survey your land. Where can you see opportunities and potential benefits? Consider its strengths and weaknesses.
  • What particular projects or improvements are applicable to your operation?
  • Timelines are important. Research application due dates, proposal requirements, and map out a timeline for completing your improvement project.
  • Are there prerequisites for applying for the incentive? Some programs require a detailed plan, or attendance at a webinar or workshop.
  • If approved for funding, do you have the capacity and capability to implement your project? Some programs offer volunteer technical support.
  • Do the long term benefits of the project outweigh the burden of applying and implementing the practice? Consider the legacy of the land, farm succession, and climate resilience.
  • Consider speaking to an expert such as an agricultural or organic consultant.

Planning and follow through

Once you have identified potential projects or practices that could be explored on your land base, some preliminary planning and research can help shed light on the feasibility of your project and determine the first steps required before applying for incentives.

It may be beneficial to reach out to your local regional conservation authority, which may have funding specific to your region. They may do a site visit that could help to identify potential projects and provide guidance. Leads and advice can also come from contacting regional agricultural organizations (like Farmsatwork in Eastern Ontario), or non-profits such as the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) and Canadian Organic Growers (COG). Each province also has differing funding programs, so it is best to research what is offered by the government agricultural division in your province. Subscribing to newsletters can help keep you up to date on new funding opportunities.

Finally, when preparing an application, make it appealing to the funder by having a detailed plan, quotes on costs if possible, and specify the positive ecological and environmental outcomes your project will achieve. These projects may take some time and planning and results may not be instantaneous, but the benefits and improvements gained can last for decades to come.

Helpful links

Canada-wide opportunities

Ontario opportunities

Meg Roberts joined the Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) in early 2020. She has a postgraduate certificate in sustainable agriculture, as well as environmental enforcement and inspection, and is currently training to become an organic inspector. OCO represents more than 1,300 certified organic operators across the value chain, as well as the businesses, organizations, and individuals that help bring food from farm to plate. OCO contributes an Organic Perspective column to Fruit and Vegetable magazine and you can view past Organic Perspective columns here.Β