Monday, 17 June 2013

What is an Environmental Farm Plan?

In response to one of our facebook posts a reader asked, "What is the Environmental Farm Plan?
Our answer comes in two parts - first, a general explanation (a backgrounder) and second a discussion of the measures we employ at  The Deakins on Mountainview Bed and Breakfast and on our farm to protect and enhance our environment.

The Environmental Farm Plan program  (EFP) is a farmer driven initiative supported through Agri-Food Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. The major focal points  - soil, water, air, biodiversity and adherence to legislation - reflect the priorities of the Agricultural Policy Framework joint initiative of the Ontario and federal governments. 

The impetus for the Environmental Farm Plan program has its roots in the early 1980’s. At that time the transition from farming for subsistence to farming for business was being fully realized . ‘New’ farmers were now working hundreds if not thousands of acres and specializing in raising vast numbers of livestock.  Almost immediately, the new mega farms were faced with substantial environmental challenges. Here are a few examples illustrating the emerging reality of the time. Runoff from large stores of manure was contaminating waterways and farm wells. Cattle grazing in farms' hardwood forests were compacting the soil to the extent that seeds were not able to pierce through the compacted soil  and consequently many tree species were not regenerating. Biosecurity was threatened as visitors from other farms carried contamination, sometimes with devastating consequences. In some cases even veterinarians and drivers collecting livestock for transport to stockyards and sales barns were unwittingly adding to the growing environmental crisis as they travelled from farm to farm. 

Within a short time the federal and provincial governments responded with necessary legislation and farmers themselves banded together to draw up personalized environmental plans for their farms.

So how does an environmental farm plan work?  

Ontario farmers, for example, identify areas of focus for their farm from a list of 23 categories. Some of these include pesticide handling and storage, disposal of farm wastes, storage of petroleum products, livestock stocking rates in confinement areas, energy efficiency, soil management and so on. Farmers next conduct a self assessment of their farm, design a plan to address issues and have their plan reviewed and approved by a committee of their peers. The Ontario government provides funding on a cost-sharing basis to assist farmers with certain areas of the implementation of their plan. Plans are updated every five years.

To date participation in the EFP program is voluntary. However government assistance to farmers is contingent upon their having an up-to-date and active plan.

So what does the Deakins on Mountainview’s Environmental Farm Plan look like?  Visit us  TOMORROW  for part two of our discussion.

No comments:

Post a Comment