From the Editor: Facing up to challenges
By Alex Barnard
We’ve passed the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the rug was pulled out from under the industry at a crucial time of year. While the rules for gatherings, businesses and foreign labour continue to shift regularly, the uncertainty with which the 2020 growing season began was, thankfully, lessened in 2021.
To help mitigate this in our own way, Fruit & Vegetable hosted the first Canadian Fruit & Vegetable Summit in March. We created the Summit to provide growers with up-to-date production tips and industry insights to start the season off on the right foot. With three panels featuring growers, researchers, provincial crop specialists and processing organization representatives from across Canada, there was certainly an abundance of experience and know-how on display.
In a happy bit of synergy, the United Nations General Assembly designated 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. According to the U.N., this was done as an opportunity to raise awareness on the important role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition, food security and health. As the purveyors of fruit and vegetables to Canadians and export markets, you are essential to this goal.
With the COVID-19 pandemic lingering into this year, food systems will continue to shift to match changing demands and consumer desires. Two major topics of the Summit were the impacts of the pandemic on the industry last year, and how producers and other sectors plan to approach the coming year with this in mind.
I admit to being surprised by how optimistic the speakers were about the future of their operations and the industry more broadly. It can be easy to get caught up in the negatives and challenges – especially when some are so complex and require so much change. But, as discussed by Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, and Pascal Forest, president of the Quebec fruit and vegetable processors’ organization, rising awareness of sustainability, food sovereignty and quality, and the importance of fruits and vegetables to a healthy diet are all beneficial in achieving a bright future.
If you’re interested in checking out the Canadian Fruit & Vegetable Summit, the recorded panels are now available to watch at fruitandveggie.com/virtual-events/canadian-fruit-vegetable-summit/. In addition to the three live sessions, be sure to check out the two on-demand sessions, as well. Ag editor Bree Rody discusses spotted-wing drosophila with AAFC knowledge and technology transfer specialist Jesses MacDonald, and ag editorial director Stefanie Croley chats with Evan Elford, OMAFRA’s new crop development specialist.
Whatever your challenges are this season – weather, labour, markets or otherwise – here’s hoping you’re able to tackle them and come out on the other side successfully.