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New Research Report: Acquiring Environmental Allies: Increasing the Adoption of Environmental Stewardship Practices by Ontario Landowners 

May 2, 2023 – Ottawa, Canada – For over 30 years, Farm Management Canada has been dedicated to increasing the awareness, appreciation, and adoption of sound management practices on the farm. As a national organization dedicated exclusively to the development and delivery of leading-edge resources, information, and tools to support farm business success, we recognize the positive link between adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and farm business success.

As societal pressures around environmental stewardship increase and Canada has set ambitious targets for achieving its environmental outcomes, the agricultural sector will continue to come under the spotlight for its role in environmental sustainability. While environmental stewardship is practiced by many primary producers and recognized as a necessity for the sustainability of the sector’s natural capital, participation in the Environmental Farm Plan remains relatively low, especially in Ontario. Industry associations, agribusinesses and retailers have created sustainability assessment frameworks for producers to measure and work towards desired sustainability goals for the sector. And new research reveals, environmental practices are inherently linked to more than just environmental outcomes.

Management experts and scholars view sustainability through the triple-bottom-line, recognizing there is a balance between achieving environmental, economic and societal goals. Government and Industry will benefit from recognizing and promoting the triple-bottom-line to help increase the adoption of on-farm sustainability measures including agri-environmental practices.

This new research synthesis and literature review sought to improve the understanding of how landowners in Ontario who do not participate in environmental stewardship programs could be engaged to participate and improve the environmental stewardship of their lands by studying the adoption of environmental stewardship practices in other jurisdictions and farm business management best practices.

The research reveals a number of opportunities for Ontario to increase the participation of landowners in agri-environmental programming. The recommendations derived from this research are presented in three (3) distinct categories: Policy and Programming, Communication Tactics and Strategies, and Future Research.

Policy and Programming:

  • The Environmental Farm Plan as a free workshop and tool for farmers is an excellent starting point for farmers and farmland owners to evaluate their environmental stewardship. Continue to use the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) as a flagship program for environmental stewardship and encourage industry to integrate the EFP as the environmental module within sustainability frameworks and programs. Enhance the EFP to align with other compliance standards and work with schools and training institutes to incorporate the EFP into academic curriculum at all levels.
  • It can be difficult to change behaviour, especially when asking landowners to go above and beyond established management practices. Provide evidence of measurable impacts including environmental and non-environmental results. Create decision support tools to help farmers and landowners assess the return on investment for adopting environmental practices. Establish a link between the EFP and the Growing Your Farm Profits business practices assessment tool to support a more comprehensive approach to reaching sustainability goals (including environmental, economic and social outcomes).
  • Incentives matter and removing barriers to participation is essential to increase adoption of environmental stewardship practices. Pursue incentives and/or financial reward programs (access to funding, tax incentives, etc.) for producers demonstrating environmental stewardship through the EFP. Create an ongoing dialogue between government, farmers and landowners to inform how to overcome barriers and increase EFP adoption and implementation.

Communication Tactics and Strategies:

  • Sustainability means different things to different people. Likewise, success is defined in many ways and depends on many factors, not just environmental outcomes. Communicate a holistic, comprehensive definition of sustainability that includes environmental, economic, and social/societal goals to promote the importance of a balanced approach to achieving a sustainable agricultural sector.
  • People have unique learning styles and rely on many different sources of information to assess risk and opportunity. Use diverse skills development and communication methods including social media to promote and increase participation in the EFP program.

Future Research:

  • With very little research available on farmers and landowners who do and do not participate in agri-environmental programs, there is an opportunity to pursue future research focused to understand the barriers to participation, the benefits realized by participants, and areas for improvement.
  • There is also an opportunity to understand how the EFP can integrate and be integrated into existing sustainability frameworks and assessment tools to increase uptake and effectiveness, and to better understand how environmental, economic and social sustainability measures and goals intersect.

The research results captured in the report help identify opportunities and mark a path forward for the Ontario government and other industry players to support increased adoption of environmental stewardship practices.

For a complete list of Key Findings and Recommendations, including the Final Report, visit

This research synthesis project was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative (OAFRI) under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

Project no. OAF-2020-101771.

About Farm Management Canada

A national umbrella for supporting farm business management excellence in Canada, Farm Management Canada is the only organization devoted exclusively to the development and delivery of business skills development and learning resources to position Canada’s farmers for success. As a non-profit organization, Farm Management Canada’s programs and activities are made possible through support from our generous sponsors and supporters.

For more information contact:

Farm Management Canada
21 Florence St. 2nd Fl, Ottawa (Ontario) K2P 0W6
Telephone: 1-888-232-3262
Email: info(at)