Place to Grow Guide for Applicants

Ontario’s government is helping to grow the province’s agri-food and agri-products sectors by launching the Place to Grow: Agri-food Innovation Initiative – a program which will help drive innovation, reduce red tape, and address industry priorities. This new initiative, which is comprised of ‘Funding for Sectors‘ and ‘Strategic Solutions‘, will support agriculture and food value-chain partners in address emerging sector challenges and opportunities to create sector wide benefits.

Funding for Sectors

Programming Overview

Funding will support agriculture and food value chain partners by offering cost-share funding opportunities to address identified industry priorities and outcomes for Ontario in the following areas:

Protection & Assurance Environmental Stewardship Economic Development

How to Apply

Eligible applicants can apply for Funding for Sector programming beginning August 15th at which time all program details and forms will be available through the CAP website at: This cost-share intake will remain open until Sept. 27, 2019.

Strategic Solutions

Programming Overview

The Strategic Solutions category will focus on bold, innovative, and collaborative projects proposed by industry partners to drive priority outcomes that have been identified under the Ontario Partnership.

An emphasis will be put on collaborative projects with partners throughout the value-chain that accelerate the creation and adoption of innovative solutions for sector challenges and arising opportunities.

Application Process

  • This Strategic Solutions project category will have a two-stage application process (pre-proposal and invited full application). Pre-proposals will be available through the CAP website ( for the opening of the program on August 15, 2019.

How to Apply

Eligible applicants can submit a Pre-proposal for Strategic Solutions programming beginning August 15th at which time all program details and forms will be available through the CAP website at: This cost-share intake will remain open until Sept. 27, 2019.

Location, Location, Location!

Choosing a location is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs make when planning or relocating their business venture.

Here’s a request we received from a retail client: “I might have an opportunity to move on to the main street, but I need more information for my business partner. He doesn’t seem to think it will make that much of a difference.”

Here is our advice:

Know your customer

The right location will totally depend on who you’re selling to and their buying patterns. Find out from your target customers what their preferences are.

Exposure vs. Destination

Once you know your customers you can determine whether your business will rely on exposure or will be a consumer destination.

If they are impulse buyers, “…oh, let’s grab a coffee before we head out of town!”, you’ll luke-chesser-KR2mdHJ5qMg-unsplashneed a location that provides exposure. Consumers will typically buy impulsively if your product is not differentiated from your competitors. Great signage will remind potential customers to buy your product when they pass-by. In many cases, the better visibility your retail store has, the less advertising you’ll need. A specialty retail store with less visibility will need to spend more on marketing than a store located on a main thoroughfare.

If your product is unique enough… “This is the best ________ store in the area!” …you don’t have to worry as much about locating your business in a high-traffic or high-exposure location. When your product is different from your competitors, your customers will come to you!

Destination business are often high-end or unique products that can’t be found elsewhere, or strong brands that are the first to open in your area. Keep in mind, this isn’t an all-or-nothing choice. Most destination businesses will still benefit from high exposure, but, depending on your business, you might not need to pay the premium it demands. If tourists are part of your target group, then marketing, good exposure and business-to-business referrals are important.

 Competition or Convenience

Have you ever wanted to go out for a meal with friends but were unable to decide on a street_signrestaurant? “Let’s head down to Hypothetical Avenue,” says one of your friends. “There are lots of places to eat down there.” In this case, several competing restaurants have clustered into a node. People know that in certain areas they’re sure to find a restaurant they enjoy.  Locating in a ‘district’ with similar businesses can attract new customers to the area and benefit all.

If you open your business in an area that’s already has businesses like yours, you might find there aren’t enough customers to go around. Similarly, if there’s a well-established brand already controlling the market and your product doesn’t offer customers a unique advantage, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to draw the customers away.

Locating with complimentary businesses or businesses with the same customer base can be beneficial. Customers visiting neighbouring businesses may be drawn into your store because they must pass by your door. Consider what other stores your target customers frequent. Potential customers with a similar profile may become new customers due to convenience.

Walk, Bike, Ride…


When you know your target customers, you will know how they are getting to your proposed location. Will they need parking? If so, consider their parking options: street parking, public lots, paid parking. Consider how many open spaces are available during your busiest hours. If your customers are using public transit, the closer you are to the drop off point, the more convenient it will be for your customers to frequent your store. Accessibility for staff and customers with disabilities improves business. Here’s a link to, “Accessibility in Ontario: information for businesses


For more information or if you have question contact Nick Kinkel at

Continue reading Location, Location, Location!

The Rural Economic Development (RED) is Accepting Applications

What is the RED Program?

Rural Economic Development (RED) is a cost-share funding program that supports projects that remove barriers to economic development in rural communities.

What are RED Outcomes?

RED applications are assessed on their ability to result in one or more of the following:

  • Jobs retained or created
  • Investments attracted or retained
  • Businesses attracted, retained and/or expanded
  • Enhanced strategic economic infrastructure
  • Regional partnerships that drive growth

Who is Eligible for RED?

To be eligible for RED you must be:

  • a Municipality
  • a Not-for-Profit Entity
  • an Ontario Indigenous Communities or Organizations, or
  • a Local Services Board

What Types of Projects are Eligible?

There are two new RED streams,

Economic Diversification and Competitiveness Stream; Projects that remove barriers to business and job retention/growth, attract investment, attract or retain a skilled workforce or strengthen sector and regional partnerships and diversify regional economies in Rural Ontario.

Strategic Economic Infrastructure Stream; Projects that advance economic development and investment opportunities in Rural Ontario (e.g. rehabilitation of cultural, heritage or tourism attractions; redevelopment of vacant or under-used properties; main street minor capital improvements).

Applications for strategic economic infrastructure Projects should include previously completed work (e.g. plans, strategies, research, data) that identifies the Project as an economic development priority.

Available Support

The RED program is a cost-share program, this means your organization is sharing the costs with the Government of Ontario. Below is the Program funding breakdown:

Stream Maximum Provincial Cost Share Maximum Provincial Funds
Economic Diversification and Competitiveness 50% $150,000
Strategic Economic Infrastructure 30% $250,000

For more information about the RED program go to

Other Resources

New for 2019, OMAFRA staff will be conducting public webinars to provide an overview of the RED program, and the process for submitting an application to the program. Sessions are scheduled from 9:30-11:00:

  • August 13
  • August 20

Space is limited, and you can register for these sessions here.

Rural Economic Development Program Website

 Rural Economic Development Guidelines

Lead Application Form

Co-application Form

Learn the fundamentals of BR+E on September 19, 2019 in Blyth, Ontario

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) Business Retention and Expansion program (BR+E) is a structured, four-stage approach focussed on ensuring that local businesses in rural communities survive and thrive.

When communities take on a BR+E project, they take meaningful steps towards retaining and expanding businesses by getting a clear understanding of issues facing local businesses and then capitalizing on opportunities.

As part of the program, OMAFRA offers comprehensive BR+E training to:

  • individuals who are interested in managing or coordinating a community level Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) project.
  • economic development professionals who will be involved in the implementation of a BR+E project.

On September 19th, Huron County will host a BR+E training session in Blyth, Ontario. The session will focus on the first two stages of the BR+E process. Participants will get an opportunity to engage with OMAFRA staff and peers from other communities on various elements of the BR+E process.


For more information about this opportunity please contact Vicki Lass at

To register email or call 1-877-424-1300

For more information about BR+E click here.

Do You Have a Water Contingency Plan?

In 2016, many areas of the province saw very warm and dry conditions. In 2017, the opposite occurred. Many areas of the province experienced excessive amounts rain, leading to saturated soils and flooding. There are many resources, including publications from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), that can help farmers manage water during low or excessive situations:

Continue reading Do You Have a Water Contingency Plan?

Recap: June Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice on Addressing Seasonality

We recently held our fourth online community of practice for Ontario’s downtown revitalization community. The session focused on events, promotions, and other activities communities are using to address seasonality, and to keep their downtowns a destination beyond traditional summer and winter peak seasons. Here’s a quick summary of the session:

Sue Nicholson, General Manager of the Downtown Collingwood BIA provided an overview of the current landscape in Collingwood, the resulting focus of the BIA inCollingwood-BIA-Logo promoting the downtown (e.g. authenticity, arts, walkability), and the full range of initiatives used to even out resident and tourist visitation in the downtown throughout the year. Some of these initiatives include self-directed walking tours, various arts-based events from May to October, and mid-week events in the summer. Overall, Collingwood has been able to work with partners across the region, including “cooperative/competitors” like Blue Mountain, to build a vibrant calendar of events and initiatives that reduce traditional shoulder seasons outside of summer and winter in Collingwood. Click here to download the presentation.

Susan Carradine-Armstrong, Manager of the Downtown Goderich BIA focused in on a key event the community uses to promote the downtown in the winter, the ICEtacular goderich_BIAfestival. Over four years the BIA has been able to successfully build ICEtacular into a key event on the Town’s calendar and a prime opportunity for downtown businesses to see notable activity in a traditionally slow season. The event has been able to attract an estimated average of 3,000 people per year for the weekend and has resulted in average increases in sales for retail and food service providers in the downtown each year over the course of the event. Click here to download the presentation.

Continue reading Recap: June Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice on Addressing Seasonality

Become a Local Food Broader Public Sector Champion

Ontario’s local food industry impacts our economy, our environment and our culture. The local food value chain includes farmers, processors, distributors, retailers, restaurants, other food service organizations like the broader public sector, who are working to provide quality products to Ontarians.

In March of 2019, the Government of Ontario established the final goal of the Local Food Act, 2013: to remove red tape barriers and open the door for using more local food across the broader public sector (BPS). To support the goal’s success, the government developed many tools and resources including the Broader Public Sector Champions Program. Organizations are encouraged to share their local food procurement baseline with the province. Then create and track targets for increasing local food purchases, and voluntarily report back to the province how they are meeting their local food goals.


Certificates of Recognition from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will be awarded to participating institutions each June during Local Food Week.

What Does This Mean for you?

Broader Public Sector organizations receive funding from the Government of Ontario but are considered outside the governing body. BPS organizations that can participate in the local food Broader Public Sector Champions Program are hospitals, municipal long-term care facilities, school boards, universities or colleges, school boards, and child care centers.

As a BPS organization, you can get started today! Click here to fill out the baseline survey, or visit the Broader Public Sector Champions Program page on the OMAFRA website for more information.

Knowing where our food comes from makes it easier to support those who grow, harvest and make it, we strengthen our communities, support a sustainable environment, create jobs and boost the economy.

Let us know what local food options are available at your local healthcare centre, university, school, or childcare centre in the comments below or on Twitter @RegionalEcDevON.



Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario –Excellence in Agriculture Award Recipient

The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) was recently presented with an Excellence in Agriculture Award. Chosen from more than 100 innovative project submissions, EFAO won for their Farmer-led Research program,

The Excellence in Agriculture Awards recognize agri-food businesses, individuals and organizations that have raised the bar for agri-food excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development benefiting their sector, or advanced technological innovation.

The EFAO is a membership organization that was established in 1979 and is located in ag_awards2Guelph.  Their main mission is to help and support local ecological farmers by creating a strong knowledge sharing community. EFAOs Farmer-led Research program allows farmers to conduct studies on their own land and then share their finding with other Ontario farmers. This helps to spread knowledge about the benefits of ecological farming practices and provides an opportunity to learn about ecological challenges facing farmers. There are four farms currently working through the Farmer-led Research program to conduct over 60 on-farm trials.

ag_awards5Ali English, Executive Director of EFAO said that she feels this award recognizes the hard work the 500+ farmers across Ontario who have been working to help make farms more profitable and foster environmental sustainability. Currently at the Ignatius Jesuit Center, a partnership with the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, is undertaking a pepper breeding project. The goal of the project is to produce high quality peppers using ecological farming methods, then share the outcomes with farmers across the province.

The Excellence in Agriculture Awards recognize agri-food businesses, individuals and organizations that have raised the bar for agri-food excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development benefiting their sector or advanced technological innovation.

ag_awards43Ontario is home to  25.3% of all farms in Canada; more than any other province. The Excellence in Agriculture awards helps to recognize hard working producers, processors and agri-organizations across the province.

What’s up Next?

If you are interested in keeping up with the Excellence in Agriculture Awards, make sure keep you eyes on Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Twitter @OMAFRA. There is more good news to come.

Agricultural Advisory Committees – Positively Impact Your Community

Agricultural Advisory Committees (AAC) are made up of community stakeholders such as Councillors, municipal staff, farmers, farm stakeholders or organizations, and other bec-ritchie-358371-unsplashinterested residents within the community. The purpose of the committee is to help shift the lens towards agriculture when it comes to deciding upon new policies, plans and processes. AACs are tremendously important because they form a direct link to the farming community, which in turn gives farmers a voice. The farming community within regions aren’t as large as they once were, so an AAC allows their thoughts and opinions to be taken into consideration when decisions are being made that may impact them.

On May 23rd, 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs along with representatives from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the University of Guelph hosted an informational webinar on AACs. The webinar focused on the lessons-learned from the results of a recent a case study report. With panelists from the Halton, York, Kawartha Lakes and Durham Regions own AAC Committee members giving first hand examples and stories of their own experiences.

Farmers, municipal staff and Councillors from across the Golden Horseshoe Region all had input into the report. It reviewed committee agendas and minutes, terms of reference and future work plans; this gave a large amount of detail regarding what each committee was seeking to accomplish. Many of the panelists described their experiences with their AAC as extremely positive and stated how imperative the committee was to the success of farms and other agricultural businesses within their region.

 Golden Horseshoe Region Map


All in all, the webinar succeeded in providing a greater understanding of the importance that AAC’s play in regions across Ontario. With 100% of participants stating that this webinar improved [their] understanding of Agricultural Advisory Committees.

One participant stated: “[The webinar was a] Great opportunity to share information and connect with other jurisdictions. It was great to show how research can improve practice. Quite often academic research can be difficult to apply. This a challenge/barrier. Great job!”

A special thanks to Dr. Sara Epp for hosting the webinar and to the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance and Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation for their support with the report.

Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance
Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation

Tips and Tricks for Labour Retention and Attraction in Rural Communities

So, what’s the problem?

To attract and retain workers, rural communities need to be more creative and attentive than their urban counterparts. In urban areas, there are a lot of features to attract workers– the variety of restaurants, tons of entertainment activities, and close proximity to all the services you could need. On the other hand, in rural communities, you need to work a bit harder to showcase the many wonderful features like short commute times, privacy, lower housing costs, and the beauty of your surrounding environment. On top of this, businesses need to put in effort to keep their workers by offering extra perks, a good working environment, or higher pay. But, higher pay isn’t always an option. Luckily, there are a ton of options that won’t break the bank and some options where you can cost-share with other local businesses.

Flexibility, meaningful work, and good work culture!

Continue reading Tips and Tricks for Labour Retention and Attraction in Rural Communities