While the average age of an Ontario farm operator is 55 years old, multiple generations may work on the farm. Understanding the demographics of farmers in more detail will help target programming and services by:
- Whether they have off-farm income (e.g. time of day programs are scheduled)
- Whether they have children (e.g. availability of child care)
- Business interests (e.g. on-farm diversification, specialty crops, online retailing)
Agriculture and food incubators/food hubs are cropping up across Ontario to support agri-food entrepreneurs and fill infrastructure gaps for cold storage, processing, distribution, and mentorship opportunities. The Ontario government should recognize the value that these facilities bring to the agri-food sector to support innovation and entrepreneurship, and it should be promoted to new and beginning farmers.
Many agri-food career opportunities exist, but they are not limited to only graduates with agricultural degrees. Ontario needs a skilled workforce – tradespeople, students educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, culinary expertise, and other fields not typically associated with agriculture. Ontario needs a concerted effort to promote the agri-food sector within other fields of study, and increase recognition of the high-skilled, well-paying careers in the agri-food sector.
OFA commented on OMAFRA’s Farms Forever consultation and suggested initiatives to assist with their objective to “Support New and Beginning Farmers”.
OFA is engaged with the Incubation Acceleration Commercialization (IAC) Agri-Food Collaborative steering committee to develop a coordinated strategy for organizations that support agriculture and food start-ups and small business ventures with programming, mentorship, incentives and small-scale infrastructure. The strategy will encourage a coordinated effort to support innovation and entrepreneurship through hubs such as the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC) and Food Starter.
OFA believes that new and beginning farmers should have access to programming that assists them in operating a successful farm business. Business Risk Management (BRM) programs have been designed to enable beginning farmers to take advantage of these programs.