The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) have won the inaugural Excellence in Agriculture Awards from the Government of Ontario.
According to a news release, the award recognizes agri-food businesses, individuals and organizations that have raised the bar for agri-food excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development benefiting their sector, or advanced technological innovation.
“Ontario’s agri-food sector is a driving force for innovation and economic growth in the province,” says Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Agri-food organizations like the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario are always pushing boundaries and expanding economic opportunities. What I particularly like about their Farmer-led Research Program is that the research findings are publicly shared, so everyone can benefit.”
Three years ago the EFAO started its Farmer-led Research Program. The program is designed to help farmers conduct research to help them improve or adopt ecological practices on their farm and once completed, research is shared at the EFAO’s annual Farmer-led Research Symposium and posted online so others can learn from the outcomes.
“This award recognizes the importance of a farmer-led approach to address some of the big environmental and agricultural challenges we face,” says Ali English, EFAO executive director. “EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program helps farmers combine their curiosity with research to answer their most challenging on-farm questions.”
According to English, since the program started, more than 30 farmers have received funding and support to conduct 44 on-farm research trials.
“(This is) helping farmers innovate and adopt farming practices that benefit their farms as well as our soils, environment, and local communities,” she adds.
The farmer-led research program is open for applications from any farmer interested in testing the effects of innovative ecological practices on their farm. The focus can be on horticulture, field crops, livestock or perennials.
The recipients of the Excellence in Agriculture Award were chosen by a committee of agri-food sector leaders. The awards recognize innovation for one primary producer, one processor, and one agri-food organization, and gives honorary mention to an additional six innovations.
The Ontario agri-food sector contributes over $38 billion to the local economy and employs one in eight Ontarians.