As a new farmer, access to capital in the early years of operation, or during periods of significant change such as farm transition or expansion, can be a challenge. The good news is, there are many farm grants for beginning farmers in Canada, and we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourites below, as well as tips for applying.
This post was inspired by and based on the generous expertise of Andrew Rosychuk of Rosy Farms, a regenerative haskap farm in Alberta and a speaker for our Business Bootcamp. Over the course of his farming career Andrew has become quite the grant wizard, and gives this advice to new farmers looking for grants, “There are so many grants, you just have to look. Make sure to stay connected with parties whose job is to know about grants, saving you countless hours and opening up opportunities. Each grant will open and close at different times, make sure you are informed and ready.”
TIPS FOR APPLYING FOR FARM GRANTS IN CANADA
There are many types of grants available, from grants to attend trade shows, to grants for innovation, infrastructure, water management, food safety, equipment upgrades, hiring young people, and riparian restoration. Each grant will have its own unique eligibility criteria, application process, and cost-sharing arrangement. Cost-sharing is a condition in which the grant covers a portion of the project cost, with the farm making up the difference. Cost-sharing contributions vary, and typically range from 30-70% depending on the grant. In order to receive a cost-sharing grant, you must demonstrate your ability to cover the remainder of the project cost. Be sure to determine whether wages or in-kind labour can count towards your contribution amount, as funders will have different requirements.
Read the grant eligibility criteria and application form carefully and make sure that you can meet all of the requirements before starting your application. If you have questions about the grant or are unsure of your eligibility, don’t be afraid to contact the grant coordinator. With a little bit of creative thinking and careful wording, you may find grant programs that your farm or farm project is eligible for.
GETTING IN THE GRANT MINDSET
Many grants focus on research and innovation, which at first glance may not seem relevant to your farm operation. However, anything that isn’t being widely done in your area or your industry can be considered innovation. Additionally, thinking about your farm operations as a series of smaller “projects” can help you to get in the grant mindset. For example, perhaps you want to expand your operation to include U-pick blueberries. If you are able to identify a promising new variety of blueberry – perhaps it is drought resistant or cold hardy – your U-pick blueberry field becomes a research project, suddenly eligible for grant funding! Or maybe you want to replace the fence around your cow pasture, which borders a stream. If you frame your fence replacement as a way of protecting a sensitive stream ecosystem, your fencing project may become eligible for grants focused on environmental protection and ecological restoration.
CASE STUDY: ROSY FARMS
Andrew gives a couple of great personal examples of accessing grant funding. Recently, Andrew needed to purchase a haskap harvester for his farm. He found a company that had just released a harvester in Canadian markets, and was able to finance part of the purchase with an innovation grant as one of the first producers in the country to use this harvester.
Andrew also wanted to build a deer fence around his orchard. He received a riparian zone grant and planted some native tree species to enhance the riparian zone on his property and to improve habitat for pollinators and pest-suppressing insects and animals that will support his orchard. He was able to use part of the grant funding to build a deer fence to protect both the trees in the riparian zone, and his orchard. These examples illustrate how you can make grants work for you, as long as you have some creativity and flexibility when it comes to the timing and scope of your projects.
Many grants have a narrow application window, and missing these dates can be very frustrating. Additionally, government grants are usually determined by the party that is in office, and so availability often follows multi-year cycles corresponding to political terms. Signing up for email alerts from grant-funding agencies is a great way to ensure you get notified when applications open and don’t miss the deadline. Andrew also recommends connecting with the grant coordinator before you apply to ensure that you are eligible and the funding is still available (especially important for grants with a rolling application deadline).
Many grant applications open in the spring, which is a less than ideal time for farmers, so planning ahead and researching your project needs, costs, and scope months (or sometimes years) before the application opens can save you time when the application opens and you are busy out in the fields! Andrew suggests creating Grant and Farm Project folders on your computer so you can quickly and easily organize and access documents such as grant criteria and common application questions, as well as specific project expenses, existing funding sources, benefits for the economy/environment, etc.
Many grants will not accept applications for projects or purchases in the past, which can present a challenge for farmers who may not be able to wait to receive grant money to make a purchase. For example, you might have time to complete a project in the winter but the grant doesn’t open until the summer. What do you do? Talk to your supplier and ask if they would be willing to sell you any necessary product(s) but to send the final invoice when the grant is submitted so that the purchase is eligible for grant funding. Get creative! Having a good relationship with your suppliers and a long-term perspective when it comes to timelines can go a long way towards meeting grant requirements.
CAN I COMBINE FUNDING FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES?
You may be able to receive multiple grants for the same project, a process referred to as “stacking”. Many grant providers will often include compatible grants with similar eligibility in the fine print of the grant description. For larger projects, it’s worthwhile to do your research or talk to a grant coordinator to figure out how to maximize the amount of grant funding you can receive. Note that some grants cannot be applied with other grant funding, so make sure to read the fine print!
STRENGTHENING YOUR FARM GRANT APPLICATION
We get it – grant applications can be daunting, and it can be difficult to distill your idea into what is sometimes only a few short application questions. Writing an application that highlights both the value your farm brings to the world and the value this grant would bring to your farm is no easy feat, but this is no time to sell yourself short. You are doing important, necessary, life-altering work, and the world is a better place because of you! Developing a clear farm vision (what kind of world you are going to create), mission (how you’re going to create it), and purpose (why you exist) can give you compelling language to fall back on when you’re halfway through an application and can’t remember why you ever thought applying for this grant was a good idea!
Each grant has a specific set of goals, and the grant provider wants to see that your business or project aligns with these goals. Take time to read and re-read the grant criteria before you start writing so you can best tailor your application to the goals of the funder. Here are some possible buzzwords to include in your application that reflect common grant goals: Job Creation, Innovation, Domestic Sales, Knowledge Transfer, Food Security, Sustainable Development, Capacity Building. As you are reading the grant description, keep your eye open for potential buzzwords and make sure to incorporate them into your application. Of course, ensure that your project will actually work to achieve these goals!
Developing a good relationship with the funder can help to set you apart from other applicants. Many grant coordinators will be happy to meet with you to answer your questions and discuss your application and this is a great way to attach a positive impression to your name within the funder’s world. Some funders even require this, so make sure you have ample time to do this before the application deadline.
Contacting the grant coordinator early on in the process also means they have time to familiarize themselves with your farm, vision, and goals. Having someone who is invested in your project and can answer questions on your behalf during the application review process may be essential to putting forward a winning case. It can be helpful to think about this in the context of hiring employees: if you are trying to decide between two equally qualified candidates, one of whom comes to your farmers’ market stall every week to say hi and one of whom you have never met, who are you more likely to hire? Even if you don’t receive the grant or don’t meet the criteria, sharing your feedback about the application experience with funders can help them tailor future grant programs to be more accessible to farmers like you.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Including letters of support from other people or organizations in your grant application can go a long way towards proving the legitimacy of your project. For example, if you are applying for a grant to build a licensed slaughter facility on your farm, you can contact local retailers, neighbouring producers, farmers’ markets, non-profit organizations, or farmers’ institutes to provide letters of support. You could even consider contacting universities or elected officials in your municipality for letters of support if they have an interest in your project area.
Partnering with a local college or university can also help you to become eligible for research funding, carry out projects or case studies, and find interns through co-op programs (and schools may even cover part of their wages.)
Business coaching or mentorships, such as those offered by Young Agrarians, Basin Business Advisors, Community Futures, Business Link, Small Business BC, Futurpreneur, or Slow Growing can provide helpful advice and guidance when it comes to applying for grants.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family to look over your application! The more eyes you can get on your application, the better.
Supporting documents such as an Environmental Farm Plan, water management plan, business plan, financial statements, incorporation documents, as well as any additional certifications your farm has (Organic, Canada GAP, etc.) can strengthen your application and may even be required for many grants. Careful record keeping during the growing season and revisiting these documents regularly to ensure they are up-to-date will make your life easier when it comes time to apply. Andrew also suggests writing a one-page description of your business, including what you have accomplished and where you are going. If you have written a business plan, this is your executive summary. You can copy and paste this information into grant applications, or attach the document directly.
SEARCH TOOLS FOR FARM GRANTS IN CANADA
There are many more opportunities available for new farmers than the ones listed below! AgPal is a great place to look for additional grants and funding opportunities for farmers. One of the best features of AgPal is it allows you to filter results by region, what you produce, who you are, etc. The government of Canada also has a handy Business Benefits Finder, which also allows you to input specific details about your business and your needs and then provides you with a tailored list of funding opportunities, including grants, tax credits, wage subsidies, and more.
The UBC Small Business Accelerator also has a list of funding and grant opportunities, as does Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. The BC government also has its own funding and grants search tool. The Columbia Basin Trust has a lengthy directory of grants and programs available to farmers in the Columbia Basin. Agro-Demarrage is an amazing, comprehensive resource for Quebec producers looking to access funding.
Additionally, local organizations such as municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, First Nations communities, food policy councils, farmers’ markets associations, or farmers’ institutes often have access to grant funding only available to not-for-profits. These organizations sometimes channel funding to community partners (like you!), so be sure to get involved with these types of organizations in your community as you may be able to work with them to carry out grant-funded projects that benefit your farm and your community.
- Sign up for email updates to make sure you don’t miss important grant deadlines!
- Talk to the grant coordinator before applying.
- Have some flexibility with the timing and scope of your projects so that you can mold projects to meet grant criteria.
- If you are applying for a cost-sharing grant, be sure you have the capital to cover the rest of the project (and the documentation to prove it!)
- Invest some time into creating supporting documents such as a business plan, letters of support templates, and financial statements. Have them on hand to make writing grant applications easier and faster. (Join our Business Bootcamp for New Farmers if you’d like to develop a business plan and financial statements for your farm!)
- Partner with local non-profits or post-secondary institutions to increase your eligibility.
- Include your farm vision and relevant buzzwords in your application.
- Think big and be creative with how you frame your projects.
LIST OF GRANTS FOR CANADIAN FARMERS
Canadian Agricultural Partnership
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a 5 year investment program designed to strengthen Canada’s agriculture sector, delivered by federal, provincial, and territorial governments. There are both national and provincial grant opportunities. National grants are typically more competitive, but come with larger funding amounts. Many grant applications open up in April while others are rotating, so make sure to sign up for email alerts, and contact the program coordinator with lots of questions.
Agricultural Clean Technology Program: Research and Innovation
Two streams of funding (Adoption, and Research & Innovation) for projects in sustainable agriculture.
Agricultural Climate Solutions
Funding for farmers engaging in beneficial management practices, with a focus on carbon sequestration and reducing GHG emissions.
ALUS (Only available in some provinces)
Helping to support regenerative systems on farms. Every location has different prerogatives and funds.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
Support program for research projects. Coaching is available after you talk with your research advisor.
Desjardins GoodSpark Grant
Helping to support small businesses with projects in sustainable development, employment, or innovation.
BMO Celebrating Women Grants
Grants for women-owned businesses dedicated to social, environmental, and/or economic sustainability.
Canada Digital Adoption Program
Funding to help get your business online, give your e-commerce presence a boost or help digitalize your business’s operations.
Indigenous Youth Roots: Land and Food Sovereignty Stream
The Land and Food Sovereignty Funding Stream aims to increase opportunities to participate in land-based programming, learn about food and medicines and engage with knowledge keepers.
Investment Readiness Program
Supports social purpose organizations as they contribute to solving pressing social, cultural and environmental challenges across Canada.
Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation (IEF) Micro-grant program
Designed to provide a financial boost to Canadian small and medium-sized businesses that are already operational, generating revenue, and who need a financial boost to improve their business operations.
TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good
Fund for purpose-driven, for-profit businesses
TELUS #Stand with Owners: Apply for a chance to win $20,000-125,000 to fuel your business growth.
Young Farmers Skill Development Program
The Young Farmers Skill Development Program is intended to increase the agri-business skills of young and new farmers by increasing access to knowledge-based skill development events, conferences, and training through a cost-share funded application program.
Helping to support innovative businesses, build, grow and expand.
Emerald Youth Grants
Grants for environmental projects run by individuals under 25.
Canada-Alberta Job Grant
Funding for you or your employee to attend a training program.
Results Driven Agriculture Research
Very long grant application process, talk with the coordinator before starting the application.
Abbotsford Community Foundation Agricultural Enhancement Grants
Grants for agricultural innovation with a focus on technology, research and development.
Buy BC Partnership Program
Provides up to $2 million in cost-shared funding annually to local producers, processors, and industry associations to support their ability to undertake local marketing activities that increase consumer awareness and sales of local agriculture, food and beverage products.
Climate & Agriculture Initiative (CAI)
The CAI delivers grant programs focusing on climate change adaptation research and has helpful toolkits for farmers as well as guides for doing on-farm research.
Extreme Weather Preparedness for Agriculture
This Program offers cost-share incentive funding for Agriculture producers in BC to conduct risk assessments and to develop projects to assist in increasing the resiliency of their existing farming infrastructure for extreme weather events.
Farm SMART Program
Farm SMART (Sustainable, Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience Transition) will support primary food producers in the Columbia Basin make operational and/or infrastructure upgrades that help them adapt to the impacts of climate change and/or reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions.
Grassland and Rangeland Enhancement Program
Funding for projects in the Kootenays that enhance the health of grassland ecosystems, including but not limited to replacing fencing, invasive plant control, improving forage, and updating water systems.
Investment Agriculture Foundation (IAF)
The IAF delivers many popular grant programs, such as:
- Agricultural Water Infrastructure Program: Aims to help improve water security in agricultural areas and food security in BC
- The Indigenous Food Systems & Agriculture Skills & Training Program: Designed to support Indigenous communities, businesses, and organizations to increase participation in agriculture, seafood, food processing, and related initiatives
- Bee BC: Offers funding to enhance bee health throughout the province
- The Beneficial Management Practices Program: A cost-share incentive program to assist farm and ranch operations to mitigate some of the risks identified in Environmental Farm Plans.
- The Perennial Crop Renewal Program: This program will provide funding to support agricultural sectors such as berries, tree fruit, grapes and hazelnuts to evaluate and define agronomic and market opportunities and to support farmers to adapt to environmental and market conditions by diversifying, renovating, or expanding production.
- Farmed Animal Disease Program: Provides funding to the BC livestock and poultry industry to invest in planning, preparedness, prevention, and mitigation of animal diseases
- Fraser Valley Flood Mitigation Program: Provides funding for agricultural producers at high-risk of flooding
- Poultry Biosecurity Program: Designed to help the BC industry develop enhanced on-farm biosecurity programs to prevent a detected outbreak from spreading.
New Entrant Farm Business Accelerator Program
Supports the growth of new entrants by providing financial support for the development and implementation of farm business plans and growth strategies
Northern Development Initiative Trust
Funding for businesses in central and northern BC, with a focus on capacity building and economic and community development.
Small Farm Business Acceleration Pilot Program
A cost-sharing program for infrastructure and equipment upgrades. Applications are currently closed, but may reopen in the future.
Vancity offers several grants for small businesses in southwest BC that address issues of climate justice, sustainability, well-being, and economic empowerment, such as the Community Partnership Program and the enviroFund Program.
Programs and Incentives | Economic Development and Jobs
A series of grants and tax credits offered by the Manitoba government for projects that foster economic growth and job creation.
Research and Innovation – Agriculture
Project funding for research and innovation in agriculture.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
Funding programs for Ontario producers, notably funds for fencing and water projects.
Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario
Funding for members to conduct farmer-led research, add a small grain to your rotation, or start a farm in Northern Ontario.
Grants for businesses in Ontario working towards a more just and sustainable regional food system.
Financière Agricole du Québec (FADQ)
The FADQ offers many funding opportunities and subsidies for new farmers.
Société d’aide au développement des collectivités et Centre d’aide aux entreprises
A network of nonprofits that support innovative businesses through funding, technical support, and business advising.
REGIONAL INNOVATION NETWORKS
Many innovation grants are delivered through non-governmental regional innovation networks. (Don’t be deterred by the tech-heavy lingo – remember, innovation grants can cover anything from creating a platform for your online sales to installing drainage tiles!) Check out the list below to find innovation centres in your province, and remember, almost all of these websites will have the email address of a real person who wants to help you succeed!
Alberta: Regional Innovation Networks
BC: BC Acceleration Network
New Brunswick: New Brunswick Innovation Foundation
Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Innovation Hub
Ontario: Business Acceleration Program
REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES
Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) help to administer federal government funding and can help you access funding and support. Funding opportunities are typically centred around innovation and job creation.
Atlantic Canada: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)
BC: Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan)
Northern Canada: Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor)
Northern Ontario: Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor)
Prairies: Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan)
Quebec: Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED)
Southern Ontario: Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario)
Parkdale Centre for Innovation
Two streams of hands-on support for small businesses – early stage startup and women founders.
Canadian Food Innovation Network
Accelerator for food businesses looking to innovate, research, and/or scale up their product offerings.
Business incubation and acceleration with a focus on social and environmental impact – check out their Food Innovation Program!
Venture Park Labs
Incubator program to help you retail your value-added food products.
Incubator for innovation in agriculture.
Trade Accelerator Program
Helping you get export ready.
Farmers’ Market Incubator: Clearwater, Sun Peaks, & Kamloops & Farmers’ Market Incubator: Vancouver
Funding and support for new Farmers’ Market vendors.
A business growth accelerator program for businesses in the Columbia Basin.
We know that many farms rely on wage subsidies to hire seasonal employees, so we’ve created a page dedicated entirely to wage subsidies! Find it here: Wage Subsidy Program Page
Science Research & Economic Development (SR&ED)
When you conduct research on your own operation, answering a scientific unknown, you will receive a tax refund. Highly recommended to hire a SR&ED tax consultant, they normally take 30% of the tax refund.
Innovation Employment Grant
Similar to the SR&ED, only available to incorporated businesses.
Paid Work Experience Tax Credit
Tax credits for employers who hire high school apprentices or post-secondary co-op students.
Cooperative Education Tax Credit
A tax credit for employers who hire students who are in a post-secondary co-op program.
BUSINESS PITCH COMPETITIONS
Cash amount to travel the world researching your topic of interest, coming home to write a paper on the topic and to teach what you learned. “AMAZING program!” says Andrew.