Production

The average Canadian family can expect to spend $411 more on food in 2019, bringing their total yearly grocery bill to $12,157 due to more expensive fruit and vegetables, according to Canada’s Food Price Report.
Most on-farm marketers would agree that the seventies were the pinnacle of the pick-your-own (PYO) era. The majority of families at that time had one wage earner and by going to a farm to pick your own fruits and vegetables and preserve them for the winter, families were able to stretch the single salary a little bit further.
According to recent reports from south of the border, two senators from North Dakota are asking their federal government to investigate allegations that Canadian growers are dumping potatoes into the U.S. market. The proof? Over the past few years, there’s been a surge in potato imports from Canada to the U.S. [$212 million worth of fresh potatoes in 2015-2016] while demand for U.S. spuds has decreased. A recent report from Potatoes USA showed exports of fresh U.S. potatoes bound for Canada have dropped 13.5 per cent from July 2017 to June 2018. And U.S. producers believe this is due to Canadian protectionist trade practices and a sign the government is subsidizing the industry. But, according to reports in Canadian media, growers in the Great White North are merely benefiting from a favourable exchange rate. And the only government support they are receiving is through loans that need to be matched 50/50 by the recipient and repaid over 10 years. Senator John Hoeven (Rep) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (Dem) have both come out strong against Canada, accusing their northern neighbour of “unfair treatment” of American potatoes. “Red River Valley potato growers have a strong case to be made that Canada has unfairly limited their profits and narrowed their fair market access,” Heitkamp said. “Canada remains one of our closest friends and allies, but we still need, and our farmers deserve, reciprocity in trade,” Hoeven said. “That’s why we continue urging the administration to address Canada’s unfair treatment of American agriculture exports. Our trading partners would never tolerate this kind of treatment from the U.S.” This isn’t the only trade woe facing the U.S. potato industry. According to a recent report from Potatoes USA, the U.S. potato market share to Mexico has dropped to 76 per cent from 82 per cent from July 2017 to June 2018 as the European Union and Canada made significant gains in the market.
After a short 5 years in business, the Cloverbelt Food Co-op has changed the face of local food distribution in the Northern region of Ontario.Much of the rural communities in the North are geographically vast, preventing its residents from having access to healthy, fresh and locally-produced products. Cloverbelt, a small co-operative located in Dryden Ont., whose mission is to strengthen food security and foster a thriving local food community, has solutions to combat this problem.“The objective of the food co-op was to make local food more visible and accessible by offering products sourced entirely from this region,” notes Jennifer Springett, Cloverbelt’s president. But it’s much easier said than done. Adds Springett, “We’ve had to become innovative to find ways for food to reach many parts of the region.”One such innovation is the development of their online farmer’s market and distribution service. The initiative was developed out of a need to provide access to more fresh foods produced by local farmers, and to find a more sustainable way to operate the local food box program in Dryden. By allowing consumers to select what local products they want to buy rather than getting a box of goods with items they may not use, it enables farmers to match their supply with demand.The program was so well received in Dryden, that residents from other small communities – many of which don’t have access to a full grocery store – requested a similar program in their region. The online market recently expanded their transportation and distribution network to the Fort Francis, Atikokan and Red Lake areas, thanks to a partnership with Louden Brother Wholesale.“Rather than reinventing the wheel and replicating what we’re already doing, we found ways to expand and distribute food between communities. This gives consumers access to a greater variety of foods, while serving more communities,” says Springett.In order to continue innovating, Cloverbelt is developing a Food Charter for the Kenora and Rainy River Districts, with the objective of encouraging community policy and commitment to support local food.“Such a policy is necessary to align municipal level commitment with provincial objectives for increased Ontario food sales. It is also critical to ensuing continued support for local food in the North, and to overcome key barriers to growth in the agricultural sector,” says Springett.Using a collaborative approach, consultations were held with the different municipalities in small, rural communities. The draft Charter, completed in March 2018, sets out a vision for local food supply in Northern Ontario, and is currently being circulated for final input.“Cloverbelt is a prime example of how co-operative businesses address both social and economic challenges within the province, by finding innovative ways to collaboratively solve a need within a community or region,” says Erin Morgan, executive director of the Ontario Co-operative Association.Learn more about the Cloverbelt Food Co-op online at https://www.cloverbeltlocalfoodcoop.com
Hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables grow in Ontario each year, but many Ontario residents still face barriers to accessing those foods. Now, an innovative food accessibility program in Guelph is making it easier for its community members to buy fresh produce.The SEED – a community food project that delivers community programs to address food insecurity – offers weekly, affordable fresh food markets with items priced on a sliding price scale. The markets, running a few hours each week now in two neighbourhoods in Guelph, offer a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to residents who may face income, transportation or other barriers to eating well.“When people come to the market, they choose what they want to pay,” says Becca Clayton, community food markets co-ordinator at The SEED. “On the reduced end of the scale, we price items as low as we can offer while still covering our costs. The upper value of the scale is retail value. Customers can pay the retail end or the reduced rate, or anything in between — no questions asked.”While the community market has been operating in a downtown location at the Guelph Community Health Centre for less than a year, the program is already expanding. A second site, in a so-called “food desert” (located a significant distance from grocery stores) in Guelph’s east end opened in April 2018.Clayton says while a number of communities offer affordable fresh food markets, she believes the sliding scale model is less common.“We came to the sliding scale model in a collaborative meeting, after a large amount of research,” says Clayton. “Research suggests in sliding scale models for other services, people choose their price point based on their income very accurately. People are generally honest about choosing where their income sits on a sliding scale, and we thought it would make sense for fresh food too.”Clayton says in the market’s downtown Guelph location, approximately half of its sales are at the low-end of the sale. The other 50 per cent is sold at mid-to-retail price points.“That’s exactly the balance we’re looking for, because it allows everyone to shop in stigma-free space together,” says Clayton. “We need people of all incomes at the market for the model to work.”The food sold at the markets come from a variety of sources, including the Toronto Food Terminal and the Guelph Youth Farm, another project run by The SEED, which provides youth with urban agriculture and employment experience. Wherever possible, Clayton says market organizers seek direct relationships with local farmers.“It’s important to us that we offer good prices for our low-income customers as well as pay farmers fair wages for what they’re growing,” Clayton says. “We have relationships with apple farmers and garlic farmers, and we’re always looking for new connections.”The markets run on a social enterprise model, which allows for a small amount of profit. After staffing, cold storage and transportation costs are paid, the market aims to turn a small profit that will allow the project to operate sustainably, without reliance on grant funding.The Seed’s community markets have been awarded a Transformative Change Award from the Ontario Association of Health Centres.
The butter tart has risen to celebrity status in the last few years. There are butter tart tours, butter tart trails, but if truth be told, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I would take a piece of pie over a butter tart any day of the week.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has calculated that by Feb. 9, 2019, a Canadian household of average income will have earned enough to pay their entire year's grocery bill.
Canadians are most concerned with the rising cost of food and the affordability of healthy food for the third year in a row in the latest research released by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI).
CABI scientists have made the first discovery of the Asian samurai wasp Trissolcus japonicus – a natural enemy that kills the eggs of the invasive fruit and nut pest brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) – in Europe.
If everyone on the planet wanted to eat a healthy diet, there wouldn’t be enough fruit and vegetables to go around, according to a new University of Guelph study.
As producers across Canada continue to struggle with finding and keeping skilled labour, three innovative Canadians have partnered up to explore a highly sought-after solution – Robotics.
Plant breeders need to know there’s good genetics in the crops they are developing. The recent Sustainable, Secure Food blog post explains how crop scientists improve crops using data gathered from both the field and the lab.
For 14 years Chris Van de Laar has spent his time climbing the corporate ladder and developing a love affair with banking and finance. While an account manager with Scotiabank at rural Ontario branches in Listowel and Goderich, he handled a number of agriculture accounts, until moving into faster-paced commercial banking, and finally, he was offered a vice-president position.
The start of a new year is something I tend to look forward to. There is nothing more promising than an untouched calendar with blank days just waiting to be filled with the highs and lows of what is sure to be another eventful chapter.
Canada currently imports millions of dollars’ worth of seed every year, despite mild winters in the southwest of B.C. that position the province as a viable climate for seed production.
A recent survey from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity reveals that most Canadians are disconnected from the people who grow their food and how it is grown. Perceptions of farming are often outdated, inaccurate and cliched. In fact, 93 per cent of Canadians say they know little-to-nothing about farming.
Woodstock, Ont – Brothers Jordan and Alex McKay were named Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2018. The brother team operates Willow Tree Farm, a community supported agriculture [CSA] farm and market, at Port Perry, Ont. The winners were announced at the Ontario regional event held on September 11, 2018, in conjunction with Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock. Alex received his Bachelor of Science in Forestry but always knew he wanted to go back to the family farm. He had inherited his passion for the land and seeing what he could grow on it from his dad. Once Jordan completed his Bachelor of Commerce in Ag Business degree, he travelled the world following his passion for skiing before returning to the farm market. Jordan had his mom’s passion for selling produce at farmers’ markets so the brothers’ strengths complement each other well. With a mission of providing fresh food by sustainable farming, Willow Tree Farm takes local farm fresh food to a whole new level. In 2016, they opened a year round market that includes a commercial kitchen, fresh butcher market and 4,300 sq. ft. of retail space. With the market open year round, Jordan and Alex have to come up with many unique ways to sell or use their produce, whether it is fresh corn on the cob in the summer or corn chowder at the cafe in the winter. They have designed the market to tell a story about buying food locally, decorating it with beams from surrounding old barns. Being a family business, you will find Jordan’s wife Alyson and Alex’s wife Kelty working at the market. The other nominees recognized were Derek and Marie Brouwer of Brouwer Farms, Branchton, Ont; and Darold and Kara Enright of Enright Cattle Company, Tweed, Ont. Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2018 will be chosen at the National Event in Winnipeg, Man, from November 29 – December 3, 2018.
Doug Alexander, director of engineering with Ippolito Fruit and Produce, will serve another year as chair of the Agri-Food Management Institute (AMI).He is joined on the AMI executive committee by vice chair Laurie Nicol, recently retired as executive director of the Ontario Independent Meat Processors, and secretary/treasurer Jean-Marc Beneteau, a southwestern Ontario grains and oilseed grower. They were re-elected to their positions at the organization’s annual meeting in Guelph.“I look forward to leading this dynamic group for another year as we continue to build awareness around the importance of business management in both agricultural and food businesses in Ontario,” says Alexander. “There is tremendous benefit that farmers and processors can realize in their operations through business management and planning, and AMI is here to help facilitate and encourage those activities in the Ontario food and agriculture industry.”Also serving as AMI board directors for another year are Peter Henderson, managing director of Toronto-based consultancy Ideovation; Jim Gracie, president of Wheatley-based Presteve Foods; Ed Verkley, chair of the Poultry Industry Council; Sara Mann, an associate professor in strategic human resource management and organizational behaviour at the University of Guelph; Andrea Gal, managing editor of Better Farming, Better Pork and Farms.com, and Chris Hiemstra, an agri-tourism operator and beekeeper who is also vice chair of the Agricultural Adaptation Council.The annual meeting included highlights of AMI accomplishments over the past year. The organization ran three cohorts of its flagship Advanced Farm Management Program, three farm tax and business seminars for farm advisors, a food entrepreneurs conference in eastern Ontario, a Transition Smart workshop in Wellington County and a pilot of its new Building Your Food Business Program.In partnership with the Ontario Apple Growers, AMI delivered Ontario Apple Academy 2.0, and together with Farm & Food Care Ontario, ran two business planning workshops in Eastern Ontario. The organization was also a principal supporter of the Agricultural Excellence Conference last fall.New resources released in the past year included a New Entrant to Farming business planning resource, a Selling Beyond the Farm Gate training program, and a white paper on barriers to scaling up for small and medium enterprises in food and beverage processing called The Food Entrepreneur’s Journey.“We work hard to deliver programming and resources for various audiences, from beginning farmers to new food entrepreneurs to established farm and food businesses,” says AMI executive director Ashley Honsberger. “Research has shown that business management activities can help every business be stronger and more profitable, and AMI is proud to play a leading role in facilitating that potential.”
To boost both production and quality, some Canadian producers have been using high tunnels in conjunction with container production and a soilless growth medium.
Production of day neutral strawberries in Ontario is increasing as part of the berry industry’s efforts to extend the growing season. However, these ever-bearing berries have different disease management needs than the traditional June-bearing strawberries.
New crop profiles for cherry and grape are available free to download from the Government of Canada Publications web site or through the Crop profiles webpage.
Researchers at the Fort Valley State University have been working to develop a robotic solution for monitoring and spraying peach orchards.
Canadians clearly love having fresh local strawberries several times a year and Canada’s day-neutral strawberry industry is growing to meet the demand.
Cornell University’s berry breeding program is releasing two new varieties, which will be available for planting in spring 2019: a strawberry, Dickens, and a raspberry, Crimson Treasure. Both varieties produce large fruits with vibrant colors that maintain peak flavor for longer than most heritage varieties.The new berries are the handiwork of berry breeder Courtney Weber, associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences based at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York.Dickens is a traditional, June-bearing strawberry with high yields and bright red fruit that continues bearing late into the season. The berries are firm, so they hold well on the plant and in the container, Weber said, but not so firm that they have no flavor.The Dickens strawberry was first discovered in Weber’s breeding fields in 2002 and was originally noticed for the plant’s hardiness in surviving cold winters, making it especially suitable for New York and other cold-winter climates. Production trials throughout the region have shown Dickens to be an adaptable and consistent producer of high-quality fruit.Weber has named his strawberry varieties after his favorite authors, including L’Amour, Clancy, Herriot, Walker and, most recently, Archer. Because this newest berry “yields like the dickens,” Weber decided to name it after prolific English author Charles Dickens.The new raspberry, Crimson Treasure, is also very high-yielding, with larger fruit than traditional varieties grown in the region. The well-known Heritage raspberry produces fruit of approximately 2.5 grams, while Crimson Treasure produces berries twice as large – averaging between 4 to 6 grams. That’s typical of what you see with supermarket raspberries, Weber said.Crimson Treasure is a fall-bearing raspberry with bright-red fruit that holds its color and texture well in storage.The name continues another Weber tradition. This is the third raspberry in the “Crimson” series. Two previously released raspberries were named Crimson Giant and Crimson Night.Cornell’s berry breeding program is the oldest in the country and is the only one in the Northeastern U.S. The university’s berries are grown all over the world: Crimson Treasure has been planted in trials in New York, California, Mexico and the European Union. The berry program works with commercial partners across North America, in Morocco, Spain and Portugal. Heritage, the most commonly grown raspberry variety in Chile, was developed at Cornell, and two Cornell raspberry varieties, Crimson Night and Double Gold, are under license in Japan.
Download the 2019 New Varieties Resource
If I had to choose one tool to assist with integrated pest management in sweet corn, it would be the corn earworm trap.
The corn salvage benefit for 2018 covers cases where DON (deoxynivalenol) levels in harvested corn exceed five parts per million (5 ppm). The benefit is designed to help producers cover costs to harvest and then market, use as feed or find an alternative use for damaged corn.
Soil advocates want potato growers to bump soil management up their priority list.
Research at the James Hutton Institute has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties resilient to heat stress and suited to the requirements of growers, industry and retailers.
Some relationships can be complicated. Take the one between sweet potato crops and soil nitrogen, for example.

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