CFFO: Funding Opportunities for Northern Ontario

By Paul Bootsma

Ontario has many geographical areas that have their own specific characteristics that allow for unique opportunities. Agriculture is able to take advantage of those unique characteristics to find niche opportunities to produce food in many different areas of the province.

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Southwestern Ontario is blessed with warm climate and good soil types, the Holland Marsh in Bradford benefits from its muck soils and ample water supply for vegetable growing, and Niagara is well suited for fruit production and the wine industry. Other examples are the “Clay Belt” in the Timiskaming area and northern Ontario which offer particular opportunities for agriculture.

Thunder Bay is an area with intensive dairy production and cropping. What sets this area apart is the amount of sunshine it receives during a growing season. Although it receives fewer total number of days of sun, it gets more sunny days and hours of daylight during the growing season. The Rainy River district also enjoys long days allowing for certain vegetables to do very well in this part of the province. The terrain is also very suitable for beef and bison production.

In 2011 the government of Ontario released its “Growth Plan for Northern Ontario” which encourages growth in population by expanding business and industry to create jobs in this part of the province. The rich supply of natural resources offers great potential which is encouraging for those already residing in northern Ontario.

Along with the growth plan there is the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHF) which provides grants and loans to existing entrepreneurs doing business in northern Ontario. As their website explains, “the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) wants to partner with business-minded Northerners to develop innovative technologies, invest in infrastructure, bolster collaboration and build economic development capacity. NOHFC programs focus on the growth of the existing and emerging sectors identified in the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario and the government’s key priority of helping communities prosper.”

For farmers in the north there is funding available specifically for agriculture which includes grants and/or loans for expansion and improvement opportunities such as land clearing, land drainage, updated equipment new or used, and construction of storage facilities. Go to for more information.

Northern Ontario has many acres of land which can be used for food production. As southern

Ontario becomes “full” and land prices remain high, farming further north becomes more attractive. We do see more movement in that direction. New residents moving north often come with money and so for those already residing in northern Ontario this program gives them an incentive to stay and make improvements for their existing businesses. Having population growth will only increase opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs and so taking advantage of the NOHF may be the bridge to better times for the region.