Agricultural not-for-profit benefits from Growing Forward 2 funding

This story comes to us from the Agricultural Adaptation Council

WebBy Lilian Schaer

Milton – When you’re a charitable organization that depends on funding programs to help support special projects, the funding agent and their approach to program delivery can make all the difference.

That’s been the experience of Ontario Agri-Food Education (OAFE), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between agri-food and the public through classroom resources and programming for educators, and their relationship with the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC).

In Ontario, AAC assists in the delivery of Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, providing a one-window approach to funding delivery for agricultural organizations and collaborations like OAFE.

“As a charitable organization, our lifeblood is the ability to apply for and secure meaningful grants,” explains OAFE Executive Director Colleen Smith. “In working with AAC, we feel like they are helping us realize a shared vision and I can’t tell you what that means to an organization like us.”

OAFE has been able to access funding for two significant projects under GF2. This includes the development of a new five-year sustainable business plan to help the organization align demand for its resources with their availability.

As well, 25 e-learning modules covering key topics in agriculture at both the essential and comprehensive levels are in development for OAFE’s teacher ambassadors. These modules, which will eventually be available for use by industry employers looking for agricultural training for their staff, will form the basis of an agri-food literacy library.

“It was a brainchild of OAFE to build sustainable e-learning modules for our teacher ambassadors that are oriented towards agriculture under the careers umbrella,” says Smith. “The beauty is that we are reaching out to young educators by building an agri-food literacy library and that’s exciting to me.”

As someone who frequently applies for grant funding from a variety of organizations, Smith appreciates AAC’s positive, straight-forward approach to working with its applicants, and credits that with keeping her board and staff motivated throughout the process. This includes having a dedicated program coordinator who can provide guidance on project structure, execution, and reporting.

“Being able to work together with AAC in a collaborative way makes the process much less onerous and having that philosophical alignment is so critical,” Smith believes.

An understanding of the bigger picture of the agricultural sector is also a strength of AAC’s board members, who are ultimately tasked with making funding decisions.

“All of AAC’s board members are passionate about agriculture. They understand the funding requests, allowing you to put your best foot forward. They’ve earned the respect and trust of the industry,” Smith states. “It’s a pleasure to submit a funding request with an organization like AAC because you know everyone’s voice is heard when you look at the cross sector representation on the board.”

For OAFE, being able to participate in AAC’s events like the annual general meeting gives a sense of being part of a team and of working with other partners for the benefit of all of agriculture.

Both organizations are currently marking significant milestones with OAFE celebrating its 25th anniversary and AAC just passing its 20th and their strong history plays a key role in the success of both organizations, she adds.

“There is value in being driven by decades of history versus being the new kid on the block but the bridge between the two is innovation. AAC and OAFE have grown together and they’re always challenging us to be innovative,” Smith says. “Agriculture is no different from any other sector – it can be hard to change and we need both funding programs like GF2 and a delivery agent like the AAC.”

Growing Forward 2 (GF2) is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2­ in Ontario.