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Big changes in the Ontario asparagus industry


June 3, 2013
By Press release

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June 3, 2013, Simcoe, Ont – As of November 2012 the Ontario Asparagus Growers’ Marketing Board has officially changed its name to the Asparagus Farmers of Ontario (AFO).

“The name change is a reflection of our board’s renewed commitment to a grower first philosophy, and reflects the evolution of our industry to changing markets,” said Ken Wall, chair of AFO.

Along with the name change the AFO dissolved its districts and has created a new governance structure that will have seven directors representing the industry in Ontario. Six directors are chosen by the membership. The seventh director is chosen by the new board, based on need and expertise that may be required.

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The role of the asparagus industry in the sale of Millennium variety seed had been an on-going topic of discussion in the industry. Millennium is a hybrid developed by Dr. Dave Wolyn of the University of Guelph, which exhibits superior winter hardiness and longevity, resulting in higher yields. These qualities have made it a variety in high demand within the province and in other countries, including the United States. In 2012, Fox Seeds was formed as a separate for-profit organization. The company provides a royalty to the University of Guelph in exchange for rights to grow and sell Millennium seed (and future hybrid releases from Dr. Wolyn’s breeding program).

In April 2013, the AFO and Fox Seeds, hired a new general manager – Bernie Solymár – who comes to the position with 12 years of extension experience with OMAFRA and most recently, 12 years as a private consultant with EarthTramper Consulting Inc. For several years, he provided expertise to the Canadian Horticultural Council’s Apple Working Group in developing their Integrated Fruit Production project. He has also done field research in the testing of novel low-risk pesticides and the development of biological control alternatives. In recent years, Bernie has contracted with several not-for-profit organizations, providing expertise in developing good governance, writing grant proposals and managing various projects. He now brings that knowledge and experience to the Ontario asparagus industry.

Finally, the AFO is also marking its 75th anniversary with “An Evening of Celebration” on Saturday, October 5, 2013, at the Hungarian Hall in Delhi, Ont. In addition to a great meal, there will be live entertainment. Tickets are $30 per person and RSVPs can be made through AFO’s secretary, Kathie Vysick by calling 519-426-7529 or e-mailing her at info@asparagus.on.ca.

The traction of point of sale (POS) marketing, the burgeoning buy local movement by Ontario consumers, and significant sales penetration into the eastern U.S. promises a continued bright future for the province’s asparagus farmers.