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Marketing Matters: Consider creating a value added product

A creative bumper crop solution

February 14, 2017  By Cathy Bartolic

Joe Mullin describes the equipment and facilities available to farmers and food entrepreneurs at the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre.

The long, hot summer days of 2016 helped to create one of the best tomato crops Ontario has seen for a long time. Many farmers were faced with a bumper crop. So what can a farmer do with all those extra tomatoes?

If you live in or near Northumberland County and you are considering creating a value added product with some of the fruits and vegetables you grow, the stars have aligned for you.

Northumberland County and the federal government have invested almost $3 million in a new facility just outside of Colborne. The Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC) opened its doors in June 2015 with the goal of helping farmers and food entrepreneurs grow. It is a state-of-the-art, 15,000 square foot building that has all the equipment necessary to take your product from the field to the consumers’ fork. One of its biggest assets is Joe Mullin. He is the person in charge of the day-to-day operations at the facility.


During a recent tour, Joe highlighted the centre’s dedication to helping people take their recipes to store shelves by sharing Dotty’s story. Dotty was in her late 70s when she came for a tour of the facilities a few months ago. She had an old family recipe for BBQ sauce that she had dreamed of commercializing for more than 20 years. When she approached Joe after the tour with her idea, she kept saying: “It’s probably too late to do this now.” Joe guided Dotty through the process of developing a label, choosing jars for her sauce and batching up the recipe. In just over a month, she had bottles to take to local stores for them to sell on their shelves. Dotty did all the marketing legwork herself and is now supplying eight stores in the area.

The tour took us through the spotless, modern facility. The processing room, commercial kitchen and development lab are all available to rent at hourly and daily rates. Cold and freezer storage as well as dry storage are available at reasonable monthly rates.

OAFVC has a supportive environment where a farmer could work out all the kinks in their recipe and get a feel for what food processing is all about. The alternative is to invest in hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment only to find out that food processing is not really for you.

For further information about this opportunity, visit

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