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Archive for the ‘Business Planning/Business Strategy’ Category

OMAFRA is once again looking to identify qualified representatives for potential appointment to the Business Risk Management Review Committee (BRMRC).  The ministry has launched a recruitment process to appoint a part-time Chair, Vice-Chair and Members to this agency.

The BRMRC is a ministry agency responsible for reviewing program participant requests in the case of disagreement on how program rules were applied to applications to select BRM programs by the program administrator. It is important that the BRMRC have representation from a cross-section of Ontario’s diverse agricultural sector.  Background information on the agency as well as job advertisements to the different positions can be found on the Public Appointment Secretariat website (https://www.pas.gov.on.ca/scripts/en/advertPositions.asp).

Anyone interested in applying can do so directly on the Public Appointment Secretariat website at (https://www.pas.gov.on.ca/scripts/en/advertPositions.asp ) until March 7, 2017.

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Wondering how to get to the top of Google? There are almost 5 billion searches per day on Google. If you are not online, or easy to find, your business is missing out on huge potential.  Many businesses rely on their website and social media profiles for their advertising and marketing- for some their online presence is their only form of advertising. So how do you improve the effectiveness of your website and make sure that customers can easily find you?

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves creating a website in a way that will help draw traffic to your site from search engines. Search engines are the primary means of finding information on the internet- by using SEO techniques you can increase the ranking of your site and thus increase the number of people visiting your site. There are a number of SEO techniques and best practices that can improve your rankings on search engines, and help to make your website as effective as possible.

The government of Ontario has published an E-Business Toolkit, including an on-line booklet Increasing traffic to your website through search engine optimization techniques. This booklet is targeted towards small businesses that are looking to learn how to attract more customers to their website. It includes best practices for search engine optimization, pitfalls, and different considerations for implementing an SEO strategy.

Best Practices:

Key word search:          Determine what words and phrases your customers are looking for. Google’s Keyword Planner can help find the right keywords. Add your keywords in the title, content, images, meta description, title tags, URL, and internal links. Include a meta description tag on each page, and an alternative tag (alt tag) for each page.

Quality Content:      Content is very important- algorithms look at length, frequency and value. The longer your content is and the more often you post, the higher ranking you will achieve.

SEO Local:                Design your website to attract local visitors. Add location addresses and include local links to your pages. Use Google Places and choose the appropriate categories.

Social SEO:              Use Twitter shares, Facebook likes, and social bookmarking to increase search rankings.

Link Building:       Let link building happen naturally through customers sharing and retweeting your content and articles. Getting listed on other quality sites can draw traffic to your site and increase search engine ranking.

Pitfalls:

Marketing:             Make sure you adjust page content when adjusting page titles. Avoid aggressive SEO techniques (loading too many keywords in the website’s content), which could exclude your site from a search engine.

Technical:            Remove any broken links. Do not use videos or images without alternative tags. Do not load your page with too many links, as Google may view this unfavourably.

Considerations:

Before deciding to do this yourself instead of hiring an SEO expert, determine if you have the web development skills necessary for SEO. SEO requires specific technical and marketing expertise; without this expertise, or if your time could be better spent elsewhere, seeking professional help is an alternative.

For more information and detail on search engine optimization, and how to increase traffic to your website, visit the e-Business Toolkit.

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Team members vs. employees

While many people classify their staff as ‘employees’, it may be beneficial to adjust this mindset and start hiring team members. Having teams and team members will lead to an open and honest work environment, while having employees can lower morale and lead to a high turnover. Having employees can limit the ability to have an enjoyable environment where people are excited to go every day and give 100 per cent.

Is there really a difference? See if you recognize any of these traits in your staff members:

Employees:

  • Have a ‘get it done tomorrow’ attitude, and will treat urgent issues as if they will always be there.
  • Love making excuses or blaming others.
  • Are internally focused- the effort they put into tasks will depend on how the outcome can benefit them.
  • Need a checklist, no more, and are comfortable working towards this checklist. There is rarely any excitement from the employee on the task.
  • Are dependable to do the same tasks and are easily replaceable.

Team members:

  • Will have a ‘we’ mentality.
  • Are focused on finding solutions.
  • Focus on a shared goal among the team.
  • Will be excited and willing to learn and develop their skillset within the organization.
  • Willing to align their goals with the organization’s goals.
  • Are integral to your team- without them your business would not run as smoothly.
  • Work together to improve your business. They believe that everyone succeeds together.

By hiring team members instead of employees you create a culture that is enjoyable for everyone, more accountable, and more productive. To create this attitude begin with an exercise where everyone refers to each other as team mates and team members, and see how the workplace changes. However, this isn’t enough- for your staff to really feel like team members, your will have to treat them as such. Teams, unlike employees, don’t need managers, but leaders, who work with the team to complete the job.

Hire team members who have a shared passion and vision of your business. This will benefit your business in the long run by creating a happier work environment, where team members don’t dread coming to work, which will ultimately create a lower turnover rate among staff. A lower turnover rate means less time spent training new employees and less inexperienced employees, leading to increases in productivity.

Methods to create a team:

  • More recognition and reward for good/extra work.
  • Listen to everyone’s ideas.
  • Trust your team and give them more responsibility/flexibility.
  • Create common goals and show the benefits of teamwork.
  • Create a task which requires teamwork to accomplish.
  • Let everyone have some fun (team bonding activities).

Resources:

http://reliablewaterservices.com/2016/01/employees-vs-team-members-theres-a-difference/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erik-harbison/team-members-vs-employees-whats-the-difference_b_6926436.html

 

 

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Five Reasons to Shop at your Local Farmers’ Market

  1. Strong Sense of Community/Support Family Farmers

Farmers’ markets contribute to a closer and more meaningful sense of community.  They bring community members together for business purposes that are conducted in a social and relationship oriented manner. They are a great method for famers to establish a direct line of communication with consumers and form meaningful relationships.

Farmers’ markets are beneficial to local economies. Consumers spend money within the community and buy locally grown produce instead of purchasing mass produced food that has been transported from thousands of kilometres away. This contributes to the job security of farmers which helps them to remain a successful business in the community. Buying locally grown produce helps to avoid major changes and the loss of farming businesses and farm land.

Farmers can also form mutually beneficial partnerships with other local businesses which help to strengthen the business community, reduce business costs and reach more customers.

  1. Food Quality: Taste Real Flavours

Typically, the food found in farmers’ markets is fresh and high quality. Since the food is grown locally, it spends very little time in transit and in some cases may have often been picked hours before being purchased. This can be compared to the major grocery stores where food often travels for thousands of kilometres over a number of days before reaching consumers. Locally grown food ripens in the field, is picked in season and reaches consumers at its best nutritional quality and taste.

  1. Know Where it’s Coming From

Farmers’ markets allow consumers to ask questions directly to those who are responsible for growing the food. This opens up an important communication and information channel for consumers. It allows them to ask about food quality, the growing process, what was involved with making the food, if chemicals were used in the process and other important questions that may not be easily answered in a grocery store.  Many consumers find this information reassuring at the point of purchase. This interaction builds trust between the farmer and the consumer.

  1. Intimate Atmosphere at the Point of Purchase

Farmers’ markets provide an intimate and fun environment for the whole family. It is unlikely that you will see families go to the grocery store for the day as a family outing. Instead farmers’ markets are often viewed as fun social attractions, which make for good family outings. Many offer fun events or games for entertainment purposes.

A study showed that on average a shopper will have 15 to 20 social interactions at a farmers’ market, compared to one to two at a grocery store.

  1. Adding Value

Farmers’ markets often add a great deal of value to their products in different ways. Value adding to products is any enhancement that helps to increase its economic value. Adding value helps to build customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood of them returning.  A few examples of farmers’ markets adding value to their product include:

  • Add nutritional information
  • Provide recipes
  • Suggest other local attractions in the area
  • Offer fun events (wagon rides or agri-tourism)
  • Small-scale food processing (personal)
  • CSA community supported agriculture (weekly food boxes)

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What is 85 dB and How do I Measure it?  

What this means to farmers

 A decibel is essentially a unit of measurement for sound.  It is a measure of power or intensity of a specific sound. Decibels work in a logarithmic function. For example, 85 decibels is two times louder than 83 decibels, thus for every 3 decibels increased above 85 the sound power doubles and the recommended exposure period is reduced by half.

This new regulation states that employers are required to ensure that employees are not exposed to sound levels equivalent to or greater than 85 dBA, Lex,8. In other words, farmers and other employers shall ensure employees are not exposed to 85 decibels of sound for duration of approximately eight hours.  This is due to the possibility of hearing damage occurring.

There are different methods to measure decibels in a work environment. They include:

  • Computer program and equipment: Easy to operate and cost effective. Not very mobile.
  • Mobile app: Easy and quick to use. Convenient to acquire.
  • Decibel meter: Most accurate, but at least $200.

 

Examples of Decibel Levels (Approximately)

  • Garbage Disposal 80 dBA
  • Milling machine 85 dBA
  • City traffic, inside the car 85 dBA

Common Farm Situations

  • Average tractor sitting idle 85 dBA
  • Tractor (under full load) 120 dBA
  • Chain saw (operating) 94-116 dBA
  • Orchard Sprayer 85-100 dBA

While operating a tractor for an extensive amount of time, farmers would be required to supply their employees with adequate hearing protection. Farmers should also consider other common activities that occur on a day to day basis, such as machine work, using tools, and even live-stock birth.  For example, a handsaw produces on average 85 decibels and an electric drill produces on average 95 decibels.

 

Safety Procedures

Farmers need to determine which tasks involve sound levels equivalent to 85 decibels or above, with exposure time of approximately eight hours or more. This can be determined by using any of the three instruments listed above. If the decibel rating is over 85 dBA and employees will be exposed to this level of sound for eight hours or longer, the famer shall change the work environment so the exposure is under a hazardous level or supply adequate hearing protection.

Once these jobs are discovered, farmers can take measures to protect their employees hearing. In situations where hearing protection devices are appropriate farmers might consider: ear muffs, ear plugs and canal caps. Hearing protection devices are given an NRR or noise reduction rating. This rating uses a simply subtraction method where if a set of ear plugs is given a 30 dBA NRR, and workers are exposed to 85 dBA, then the ear protection reduces the noise to 55 dBA.

Training and instructing employees on the proper fitting, inspection and maintenance and, if applicable, the cleaning and disinfection of hearing protection devices is another responsibility employers will be required to undertake. Additionally, employers will be required to provide visible signage warning of areas where the sound level regularly exceeds 85 dBA.

 

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r15381

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Part one of two.

As of July 1st 2016 all employers in Ontario, including farmers, are required to comply with new workplace noise regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The legislation states that farmers and other employers shall ensure that their employees are not exposed to hazardous levels of noise. Hazardous noise, according to the legislation, is 85 dBA or louder, for a time period of approximately eight hours. Examples of 85 dBA are illustrated below.

This legislation does not apply to self-employed farmers with no employees.

 

What this Means to Farmers

This results in additional responsibilities for farmers to ensure safe working conditions for their employees.

Key changes:

  • Farmers shall take reasonable measures for the circumstances, to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels.
  • Noise protective measures may be engineering controls (altering work environment), work practices and, where required and permitted, hearing protection devices.
  • Measurements of sound levels in the workplace (for the purpose of determining appropriate protective measures) shall be done without regard to the use or effect of hearing protective devices.
  • Employers should ensure that workers are not exposed to hazardous sound levels of 85 dBA, for eight hours.
  • Except for certain circumstances, employers shall protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels without requiring workers to wear hearing protective devices.
  • Protective hearing devices are not to be used as a primary means of protecting hearing only in the certain circumstances listed below.
  • Where practicable, clearly visible warning signs shall be posted at every approach to an area in the workplace where the sound level regularly exceeds 85 dBA.

 

The Use of Hearing Protective Devices

Hearing protective devices shall be used if other forms of protection such as modifying equipment, absorbing noise, or changing frequency of noise cannot be achieved due to:

  • not in existence or are not obtainable;
  • not reasonable or not practical to adopt, install or provide because of the duration or frequency of the exposures or because of the nature of the process, operation or work;
  • rendered ineffective; or
  • are ineffective to prevent, control or limit exposure because of an emergency.

 

Training and Instruction on the Use of Hearing Protective Devices

If hearing protection devices are provided employers shall also provide adequate training and instruction on the care and use of the device including its limitations, proper fit, inspection and maintenance and if applicable the cleaning and disinfection of the device.

 

 

Selecting Hearing Protection Devices

When selecting hearing protection devices consider:

  • sound levels to which a worker is exposed;
  • the reduction provided by the device; and
  • The manufacturer’s information about the use and limitations of the device.

A hearing protection device shall be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

 

Summary of Changes 

In situations where noise levels are hazardous farmers shall consider the particular circumstances of the situation and use engineering controls, safe work practices and in certain circumstances, provide employees with proper hearing protection devices and necessary training for how to use.

 

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r15381

 

 

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So, you’ve decided you want to become a farmer.

There are many things you need to think about when starting a farm. Some of these things are what do you want to produce, where are you going to produce it, how are you going to gain the skills to do so, and how are you going to finance this initiative?

Very few people who are starting a farm from scratch have the disposable income to get an operation up and running, and keep it going all on their own. So where do you find financing?

Aside from friends and family, the obvious choice would be your financial institution. Most banks and credit unions have agricultural specialists that deal with just this sort of thing. They have the knowledge, and expertise to help guide you through the process of securing the necessary funds to match your business needs.

In addition to the traditional banks, there are also lending institutions that specifically focus on the agricultural community. These funding sources tend to offer more specialized financial services to their clients. A couple of examples would be Farm Credit Canada and the Agricultural Credit Corporation (specific to operating costs), both prominent lenders to farm and farm-related businesses in the country.

Depending on where you are at in your business’s lifecycle, you may also be eligible for funding through various government programs. While the government is generally not in the business of providing funding for farming start-ups, there are a number of cost-share programs that support new initiatives that focus on job creation, innovation and economic development. Some examples of these programs are the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, Growing Forward 2 and various grants offered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Another source of funding that is growing in popularity is crowdfunding. This method relies on donations or offering rewards. The rewards would most likely be directly related to the product or service your farming venture would produce. While this method may seem like a means of getting “free money”, it is considered taxable income, and does require a significant amount of project management to get your funding campaign off the ground, promoting it, and delivering on commitments after your campaign is complete. Additional information on the legalities of crowdfunding for a business, especially when it comes to equity crowdfunding, is available through the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada.

Whatever source of funding you decide to pursue for your new farming business venture, always make sure you do your homework and are aware of the risks involved. Having a solid business plan is the best place to start to ensure you are prepared for what you want to do, and how you’re going to do it when it comes to starting your farm business.

 

Visit Ontario.ca/agbusiness for more information.

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