During an unpredictable summer growers may need all the help they can get. A new project associated with the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP) is beginning to show up on the radars of local farmers and greenhouse owners. Cost-share funding of 30 or 50 per cent is available through a program designed to improve environmental performance of commercial greenhouse, landscape nursery and vegetable farm operations.
Though there have been a number of applicants, not all of them are eligible to receive cost share funds, program contact John Benham explains. Suitable applicants must have a current and approved third edition environmental farm plan and must own a legal farm entity with a farm business registration number. Other details on the application process can be found on the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) website.
OSCIA lists a number of best management practices supported by the current initiative, including habitat, pest and irrigation management as well as nutrient recovery for waste water and runoff control. According to Benham, there are few greenhouse operations in the Waterloo and Wellington areas, yet some major businesses are eligible for the program. Waterloo Flowers owner and applicant Ron Miziolek runs one of Breslau’s major greenhouse operations and is happy about the opportunity.
“It’s insanely helpful and I would say, yes, entirely necessary because without a driving initiative from someone and without support for it we wouldn’t be able to improve our environmental stewardship,” Miziolek said.
There is a process to obtaining the programs cost share funding. Farmers must take on an approved environmental initiative and meet the pre-planned deadline for its completion. After proof of payment is provided, qualified applicants receive a percentage of their money back.
The funds have been set aside to help farmers make necessary improvements to their businesses but Benham explained that there don’t seem to be any overarching environmental issues that need to be fixed through the funding. He compares it to the environmental farm plan, which focuses on ventures such as manure storages and improving wells. Yet this money is allotted for a different purpose.
“Same as the environmental farm plan there is cost-share money available to help farmers improve their situations. But this other program is aimed partly at irrigation and handling water after it leaves the greenhouse so it’s not contaminating other water,” he said.
The project is designed to improve and sustain. With support form the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP), efforts are directed towards water efficiency and the enhancement of environmental practices.