Starting a Farm in Ontario - Business Information Bundle for New Farmers

Common Questions about Starting a New Farm Business

Q. Where do I start, what do I need to do?

A. If you have conducted a self assessment and you want to pursue farming as a career, the first thing is to invest in educating yourself to determine what will be the core business of your farming operation. Talk to other farmers, attend workshops, seminars and trade shows. Seek out mentorship programs or work as an employee on a farm to gain practical experience.

Q. Where can I get training to develop the skills I need to start a farm?

A. Agricultural and business courses are available at some Ontario universities, colleges and through some industry organizations. These include business, marketing or production courses.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade also provides some resources for small and medium enterprises.

There are also numerous opportunities to talk to existing farmers, attend workshops, seminars and trade shows. Get in contact with the organization of the commodity(ies) that you are considering producing. A list of Ontario's agriculture, food and rural organizations can be found on our website click here.

If possible, look for a mentorship program or work as an employee on a farm to gain practical experience.

The ministry is currently offering support to share the cost of developing a wide range of agricultural skills through the Growing Forward Business Development Program for Farm Businesses. This program incorporates self-assessment and goal setting with a range of cost-share advisory services and skills development opportunities. Click here for more information.

Q. Do I need a farm business registration number in order to begin farming in Ontario?

A. You do not need a farm business registration number to begin farming in Ontario - it depends on your gross farm income once you have enough production to see a return. Farm businesses that gross more than $7,000 in farm income are required by law to register their business with Agricorp. Agricorp delivers the Farm Business Registration (FBR) program on behalf of OMAFRA. Farm businesses are required to pay a registration fee and can choose which farm organization they wish to join (exceptions apply). In addition to managing the collection and disbursement of registration fees, Agricorp collects farm product data to assist the ministry in developing sound public policy. The deadline to register each year is March 1.
With a valid FBR number, producers can:

  1. Pay 25 percent property tax on agricultural land versus 100 percent of rural property value as determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).
  2. Obtain membership with either the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO), or National Farmer's Union (Ontario) (NFU-O).
  3. Access related programs and services eligible by having a farm business registration number click here.

Q. Are there any grants and/or programs to help with me get established in my new farm venture?

A. Programs and services exist to assist in many areas of a farm business. There is no specific government funding program in Ontario to assist in the establishment of a new farm venture from a capital point of view, however other programs may apply. Visit the OMAFRA factsheet on Programs and Services for Ontario Farmers.

Q. How do I know if I am paying fair market value for the farm property I am interested in purchasing?

A. Talk to local farmers and real estate agents in the area you are looking to purchase land to get an idea of the price per hectare or acre. Also do a web search to find out additional information.

Q. Where do I go to get a soil analysis done? Why do I need to do this?

A. Soil testing plays an important role in crop production and nutrient management. On farms that use commercial fertilizer as the main nutrient source, it is the best way to plan for profitable fertilizer applications. On livestock farms, knowing how much nutrient is present in the soil to start with is critical. Only then can a nutrient management plan be developed to properly manage both the nutrients that have been generated on-farm and any nutrients that are being imported to the property as biosolids or commercial fertilizer. Soil testing is really a three-step process: the collection of a representative sample from each field or section, proper analysis of that sample to determine the levels of available nutrients, and use of the results to determine optimum fertilizer rates. Keeping records is an integral part of the soil-testing process; they will help determine if soil test levels are increasing, decreasing or being maintained over time.

List of accredited soil testing labs.

Q. Where do I find out about local zoning and bylaws that may affect what and how I operate my farm business?

A. Local zoning and bylaw information is readily available by contacting the planning department of your local municipality or township. To find your local municipality click here.

Q. How do I determine my cost of production for a certain crop or livestock?

A. Determining your cost of production involves a number of variables including fixed costs and variable costs. Cost of production information available through the ministry can be found on our website click here.

Q. How do I know if my product needs to be marketed through a marketing board?

A. Information and a list of marketing boards in Ontario can be found on our website click here. Contact the marketing board directly if you have any questions about how they operate and how to market your products.

Q. How do I market my non-regulated products?

A. A marketing plan is a vital component of your overall business plan. A comprehensive marketing plan examines global and consumer trends; reviews the marketing mix of product, price, place and promotion; and provides details of how you will market your product or service over a certain period of time. Although the development of a marketing plan can seem intimidating, information, tools and resources are available to help.

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF)

Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (MEDT)

Canadian Farm Business Management Council (CFBMC) and search "Resources and Publications" for marketing material and information.

Also, OMAFRA is currently offering support to share the costs of developing a commodity marketing plan or a direct marketing plan through the Advanced Business Planning portion of the Growing Forward Business Development Program for Farm Businesses. Visit the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association for more information.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 15 March 2010
Last Reviewed: 21 August 2013