An important aspect of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has always been our grassroots engagement through county and regional federations across the province.
This past year, our organization has pivoted to virtual platforms to reach our membership, engage with government officials and collaborate with fellow industry stakeholders.
Through this adaption, there has been a significant reduction in the costs of travel, hotels, meals, meetings and in-person events, which has created a surplus in OFA’s funds.
This surplus of funds has been a silver lining throughout this pandemic and has allowed us to invest at the grassroots level.
To further support and encourage resiliency in our sector, OFA will be using this surplus to empower local federations to support community initiatives and projects in their areas.
Throughout this year, many local federations, commodities and members have stepped up to meet community needs with tractor parades supporting front-line workers in health care, donations to food programs and assisting with emergency efforts for PPE. We appreciate the commitment OFA members have made to their local community and look forward to the opportunity to do more.
Empowering county federations enables our grassroots to act on priority issues within their county and evoke meaningful change.
At the local level, messaging is stronger due to dedicated boards of directors who advocate for direct needs of their counties.
This funding will allow the creation of positive initiatives that will complement existing programs while also meeting the needs of local agricultural communities.
Through this surplus, OFA has taken the opportunity to develop the Revive Fund, to further resiliency in our agricultural communities.
This fund has two streams of applications: The Special Projects Fund and the Small Projects Fund.
The Special Projects Fund will be dedicating up to $100,000 across the province to federations for the support of local initiatives.
The project’s categories include health and wellness, local food promotion, environmental stewardship, food security, member engagement and recruitment, leadership development and farm safety/farm emergency response.
Applications must be submitted by the local federation on a cost-sharing basis, contributing their own funds and working with partners to match OFA’s contribution.
The Small Project Fund is intended for local federations with a membership total of 450 or less. This fund aims to support the visibility and member outreach of the smaller federations. Applicants should consider how to stimulate long-term member participation, enhance the federation’s visibility and best advocate for key issues.
Activities can include governance, leadership or communications training, events based on member networking and relationship-building or promotional items to enhance visibility of the federation.
We believe this funding will boost the resiliency of farm communities by supporting initiatives that will help our sector emerge through the pandemic with more strength and resiliency. OFA will continue to support our grassroots and invest in our sector’s most valuable asset – its people.
The Revive Fund will be active starting April 2021 with projects concluding by July 31, 2022. If your agricultural community is interested in partnering on a project under the Revive Fund, please contact your local federation.
Drew Spoelstra is a vice-president for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture