Companies
March 22, 2017, Barrie, Ont – Ontario start-up FreshSpoke is tackling the distribution challenges that, until now, have kept most farmers and micro-producers out of the wholesale market.

“Consumers are demanding more local and sustainable sourcing on the part of institutions, retailers and food service,” states Marcia Woods, CEO of FreshSpoke. “But the existing food system doesn’t make it easy or economical to buy or sell on a commercial scale.”

FreshSpoke is tackling this problem with an app that handles the order, payment and delivery for the producer and gives food service and retailer buyers a direct pipeline to fresh, local food, delivered to their door.

“We’re building a shared delivery system on a commercial scale starting with our own food producers so they can make extra cash delivering for producers who don’t,” explains Woods.

By the summer of this year, FreshSpoke expects to have third-party commercial drivers on board to keep up with the pace of demand as it expands across the province.

FreshSpoke is the latest in a growing list of peer-to-peer platforms referred to as the sharing economy, an economic movement that has experienced rapid growth over the past five years.

“To get fresh, local food onto menus, chefs had to spend precious time or be willing to pay a premium to distributors,” states Mia Andrews, president of the Canadian Personal Chef Association. “Now with FreshSpoke they can easily buy directly from the producer and get orders delivered at a fair price.”

FreshSpoke’s sellers range from breweries, wineries and artisanal food makers to farmers and growers like garlic farmer Bart Nagel, who operates Bulbs of Fire near Mildland, Ont.

“Small farmers like myself know there’s a wholesale market for our product but finding those buyers and figuring out delivery on top of everything else we do in a day is impossible,” says Nagel. “FreshSpoke is the first solution I have seen that offers a way to reach the market directly and get my orders where they need to go for a fair price.”

FreshSpoke’s web and mobile applications give wholesale buyers in food service and retail businesses free access to a growing inventory of locally produced products from more than 100 producers across the greater Golden Horseshoe region. The fees for local food producers range from free to $900 per year.

To find out more about FreshSpoke or register for an information session, visit their web site at freshspoke.com.
March 1, 2017, Boise, ID – Three types of potatoes genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine are safe for the environment and safe to eat, federal officials have announced.

The approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last week gives Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Company permission to plant the potatoes this spring and sell them in the fall. READ MORE
February 6, 2017, Caribou, ME – McCain Foods has started trials examining soil fumigation with several of its growers.

In an effort to boost yields with its contract growers of russet processing potatoes, McCain Foods has been conducting trials of fumigation on a small number of acres with farmers who have had yield problems with nematodes, verticillium wilt and other fungal soil pests. The Florenceville, NB, company has been conducting similar trials with its growers in Canada. READ MORE

December 1, 2016, Lowell, OR – Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Inc., a global blueberry breeding and nursery stock company, has named Dr. Paul Sandefur as manager of its U.S. breeding program.

November 30, 2016, Kelowna, BC – The B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative board of directors is pleased to announce the hiring of Stan Swales as chief executive officer effective Nov. 28, 2016.

“After a long search, we are excited to move forward with our selection of Stan,” said B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative President Jeet Dukhia. “The board of directors is confident Stan will build on the trust between cooperative members and staff while working towards a strong, sustainable industry for our members.”

Swales started in the industry in 1985 at Okanagan North Growers Co-Op in Winfield where he spent 20 years in various roles, including both horticulture and operations. From there, Swales moved to Growers Supply Co. Ltd. as the general manager where he remained for 10 years. For the last year, he was with BASF Canada as a business representative.

“I am thrilled to be back with the cooperative as the new CEO,” stated Swales. “Over the span of my career in the industry, I have worked in some capacity at almost every level. With that comes the understanding of the needs and challenges both the membership and the cooperative face and I feel I can draw on my experience to help guide our cooperative moving forward.”

Swales will be in the office full-time starting Dec. 27. Chief Financial Officer Warren Everton will remain acting CEO until then.

November 1, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of two types of potatoes that are genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that causes late blight.

The potatoes next must clear a voluntary review process through the Food and Drug Administration as well as get the okay from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The approval covers Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.'s Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the company's second generation of Innate potatoes. READ MORE

September 26, 2016, Charlottetown, PEI – People in the P.E.I. potato industry believe a new spud that's better for people with diabetes could be lucrative to grow on the Island.

The Carisma potato was launched this week by an Ontario company, EarthFresh Foods Inc. It's being marketed with a low glycemic index, with the support of the Canadian Diabetes Association. READ MORE

September 21, 2016, Toronto, Ont – People who avoid potatoes to reduce their carb intake can now try a new Ontario-grown variety that's touted to have a lower glycemic response, meaning it doesn't cause the rapid spike in blood sugar that normally comes from eating carbohydrate-rich foods.

The new Carisma potato, which is being grown in Waterdown will be available in limited quantities in select stores in Ontario this fall, says EarthFresh Farms, the grower and distributor of the spud. READ MORE

August 29, 2016, Alliston, Ont – Potato farmers from across the province got together to see the latest and greatest in farming equipment technology and crop varieties at HJV Equipment’s annual Ontario Potato Field Day.

The farm equipment business located on County Road 10, south of Baxter, has hosted the event for several years, and it is held in conjunction with Frito Lay’s annual farmers’ conference down the road at the Nottawasaga Inn Resort. READ MORE

June 22, 2016, Florenceville, NB – McCain Foods (Canada) says it will spend $65 million to add a new production line to meet demand for hash brown patties and other potato products.

The investment will expand McCain’s Florenceville-Bristol plant in New Brunswick, where the global frozen foods company got its start. READ MORE

May 16, 2016, Summerside, PEI – Robert Green pointed to a tractor just coming into view over a hilltop. The machine is planting peas, he explained, a first for his business, Greenfield Farms in Bedeque.

He's shaking up his planting mainly because of the loss of the McCain Foods french fry plant in Albany, which closed in 2014.

He's been supplying spuds to McCain Foods since 1989 but that relationship will, in all likelihood, come to a close after this season and he needs to start planning for that outcome. READ MORE

Where do you go when you need to hire some additional staff? Who do you call when you need an extra pair of hands?

Many on-farm marketers tend to hire students. In the past few years, there have been lots of students looking for jobs in the summer so it is an easy fit with farm businesses that focus on a summer/fall product. There are great examples of summer students that have decided to come back or stay on with farm businesses once their education is complete. You can’t beat the energy and enthusiasm the right student can bring to your operation.

The downfall of having all or mainly student employees is that in September, when students go back to school, your market is suddenly without staff. This year, consider hiring strategically. Look at some other options that may work out better in the long term.

Retired boomers are looking for something to do. The front end of the boomer generation are now past 65 and the majority are retired from their regular 9 to 5 jobs. This group is generally in good health but some are lost without the regularity and schedules of their job lives. They may not want to work every day, Monday to Friday, but you could probably get them to commit to a few days each week and, hopefully, at least one weekend day. They aren’t necessarily looking for a lot of money so don’t be too worried that you can’t pay them what they have been used to earning. Butchart Gardens in Victoria, has retired lawyers, pilots and dentists working on its grounds. Generally, the business has more applicants than positions available.

Another group of people to consider are young moms. There may be some in your area who want to be around when their children need them. Daycare can still be an issue in rural Ontario so it is difficult to hold down a full-time job if there is no one to look after the kids after school. These women sometimes want something to do for a few hours a day but not necessarily a full-time job. You can bring them in for peak periods of business. They are often grateful to find a job close to their homes and their children’s school.

The artist community has a flexible work schedule. If your market is only open for a couple of months, you may want to consider approaching an artist. They are often looking for some additional income and perhaps, if they know in advance that you can hire them for two to three months consistently, they can put their artwork on hold for those few months each year. Having returning employees on an annual basis is always easier than starting from zero with each new employee.

If you have a great employee who is looking for additional hours, consider recommending them to another on-farm business that is open at a different time of year. There is a sweet corn operation that shares their staff with a Christmas tree business in the same neighbourhood. This is a win-win-win for staff and employers.

Post your job opportunities online. If you are not sure how to do that find someone to help you. You can also recruit from your customers. Customers already know about your business and want to see you succeed. It is a great beginning for a new hire.

Once you’ve had a chance to review these categories, consider what each groups’ preferences may be. Students are mostly available in the summer. Young moms may want to have the summer with their children but can help in September when their children and your student employees are back in school. Boomers may be available a few days a week for all the weeks you are open. A little bit of planning could go a long way to make sure your business is well staffed through the whole season.

April 12, 2016, Edmonton, Alta – Edmonton’s Little Potato Company is eyeing a major expansion with its first plant in the United States.

The homegrown success story is building a processing, packing and storage facility that will also serve as its U.S. headquarters in DeForest, Wis., about 25 kilometres north of the capital in Madison. READ MORE

April 8, 2016, Charlottetown, PEI – The company responsible for creating a genetically engineered potato has taken issue with comments made by Earth Action P.E.I. in a recent Guardian article.

Earth Action leader Sharon Labchuk said in that article that genetically modified products are unsafe. But Doug Cole, director of marketing and communications at J.R. Simplot, the Idaho-based company that developed the potato, disagrees. READ MORE

April 7, 2016, Charlottetown, PEI – An Idaho-developed potato recently approved for consumption by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency hasn’t been met with approval by some Islanders.

The Innate potato, a russet variety, was brought to Canada by J.R. Simplot, a Boise, Idaho, company. READ MORE

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