SUDBURY — There is a small but remarkable migration of farmers going north, attracted by inexpensive farmland and government grants for tile draining the land.
In the last 10 years, the number of farms in Northern Ontario increased from 1,782 to 2,261 and the farms doubled their income, generating almost $102,000 in revenue per farm.
The top three northern regions are Timiskaming (generating $66 million) followed by Thunder Bay ($30 million) and Rainy River ($30 million). In 2011, the average Northern farm produced about $174 per acre. But by 2021, revenue grew to $335 per acre, reported Ontario Federation of Agriculture senior farm policy analyst Ben Lefort, at the Northern Ontario ag conference in Sudbury on Feb. 15.
Production also increased. Corn production in the north is up 457 per cent over 10 years, while soybean production is up 300 per cent, he said.
While clearing land and adding tile drainage can be expensive in these parts, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC), has provided funding for eligible producers to cover some of those costs. Applicants can receive up to 50 per cent of the cost for tile drainage to a maximum of $500 per acre, as well as cover project management fees. Funding is no longer available for land clearing. Lefort said the program played a “huge role” in getting more acres into production. Funds for land clearing and tile drainage should remain a top priority if the province wants to see the region grow, he said.