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October 11, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – Essentials of Selling Local Food takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 24, 2017, at the Wildwood Recreation Complex in Wildwood, Alta. “This one-day workshop is for people interested in learning more about selling food direct to consumers and potentially transitioning into retail sales,” said Delores Serafin with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “You’ll learn about the local food opportunity, and the different farm direct marketing channels, their benefits and challenges. As well, you’ll hear about the scope of the retail market, market drivers and the pros and cons of accessing the retail market opportunity.” At the workshop, participants will: meet the Alberta agriculture specialists available to assist you as you establish your food business hear about the regulations that apply to your food business Alberta Health Services will share the food regulation requirements as well as safe food handling practices learn everything you need to know as you assess the retail food market receive insights into the Yellowhead County Local Food initiative Cost is $23.75 plus GST, and lunch and refreshments will be provided. The registration deadline is October 17, 2017. Registration can be done online or by calling 1-800-387-6030. For more information, contact Delores Serafin at 780-427-4611 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .'; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text35041 ); document.write( '' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
October 3,2017, Guelph, Ont – Ontario farmers who are thinking about growing a non-traditional crop have a valuable new tool to assess whether it’s a profitable idea. Making a Case for Growing New Crops is an online learning resource recently developed by the Agri-Food Management Institute (AMI) to help farmers engage in business planning before planting. “This resource will help you decide if that new crop is right for your farm at this time,” says Ashley Honsberger, executive director of AMI. According to Honsberger, farmers are increasingly looking at non-traditional crops to meet new customer preferences, realize higher value per acre, or for crop rotation and other environmental benefits. The resource was developed in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), who surveyed members earlier this year to gauge interest in growing new crops, as well as the best method of delivering information. “We know Ontario farmers are interested in growing new crops, and are looking for timely information on marketing a crop, finding buyers and locating processors,” says Keith Currie, OFA president. “We appreciated providing AMI with industry input on a resource that will ultimately support farm business management and reduce the risk of expanding into a new crop.” Making a Case for Growing New Crops features five interactive modules that users work through on their own schedule to develop a business case for diversifying their farm. Through a series of videos and worksheets, users can determine whether the crop is an agronomic fit, identify customers and markets, analyze their cost of production and develop a budget. In the end, they will have a personalized and confidential report that includes a business model canvas (a one-page visual business plan) as well as an action plan to share with their team and use to communicate with their advisors and lenders. “Whatever the reason, taking time to build a business case for growing new crops makes sense,” says Honsberger. “While we encourage farmers to take a new approach, we also want them to really evaluate the opportunity and manage any potential risks associated with growing new crops.” Of the 402 farmers responding to the online survey about new crops – as part of the Making a Case for Growing News Crops project – about 20 per cent had tried a new crop in the past five years. The main reasons farmers chose to trying something new included: changing markets and emerging opportunities (29 per cent), crop rotation and environmental benefits (24 per cent), and reducing overall risk through diversification (24 per cent). And 27 per cent of farmers said they develop a business plan before beginning a new crop opportunity. For growers who had not introduced a new crop in the last five years, 7 per cent plan to in the next two years, 49 per cent do not plan to, and 44 per cent were undecided. These results suggest farmers are open to new crop opportunities, but are hesitant and unsure of how successful they may be. The survey findings also contributed to OFA’s submission for the Bring Home the World: Improving Access to Ontario’s World Foods consultation by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
October 3, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – Alberta seed potato companies are invited to participate in a market development mission to Thailand from November 19-27, 2017. The mission will include stops in Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, Thailand to meet with importers, distributors and potential customers as well as touring local potato farm operations. “This mission will profile Alberta as a reliable producer of high quality, low virus seed potatoes,” says Rachel Luo, senior trade and relations officer with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “This will be the first market development mission focused on seed potato suppliers to Thailand since Alberta was granted market access last year.” To be eligible to participate in this mission, companies should be providers of seed potatoes and interested in the Thai marketplace. There is no fee to participate in the program; however, companies are responsible for payment of their own travel expenses and any other costs occurred. Participating companies may be reimbursed for their participation for 1/2 of the actual designated participation costs, up to a maximum of $2,500 [CDN]. Reimbursement is to help offset a portion of their travel expenses including airfares and accommodations for one representative per company. Participating companies will receive full details about eligible expenses in their confirmation letter. For more information, contact Rachel Luo,
September 11, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Ontario’s newest fruit crop, the Cold Snap pear, has gone from zero to zoom in record time and is now available through five major retail grocery chains. It’s a great grassroots success story that checks all the boxes giving Canadian growers an exciting new profitable crop option, and offering consumers locally produced fruit throughout the winter. Ontario researchers at Vineland Research Innovation Centre set out to develop a new winter hearty pear to provide a new opportunity for Ontario growers. The resulting new variety – trademarked Cold Snap pear – was licensed to Vineland Growers Cooperative, a 300-member fruit and vegetable growing and processing cooperative in Ontario’s Niagara Region. When the new pear was ready for commercial orchards, 80,000 trees were planted in Ontario and the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. After three years, the new trees began producing enough fruit to take to market. That’s where some of the most interesting challenges began. “The hardest part of launching a new product is customer awareness and buy in,” says Matt Ecker, sales and business development manager with Vineland Growers Cooperative. “The Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding we received through the Agricultural Adaptation Council helped us develop and deliver messaging about the new pear directly to consumers through in-store demonstrations.” And the response has been very positive for the new variety. “Once people try our pears, they really liked them but we needed to make our brand pop to be able to change consumer behaviour about when they could buy fresh, local pears,” says Ecker. Sales are off to a strong start and customer feedback indicates that Ontario consumers are embracing the new fruit option and enjoying the taste and texture of the Cold Snap pear. For growers who planted the new pear, the opportunities are as refreshing as the fruit. Cold Snap pears are grown in high-density plantings. As the trees mature and grow into full production, growers can expect to yield up to 20 tonne/acre of fruit – or nearly double the yield of low density orchard plantings. Higher yields bring greater efficiencies and profitability for growers. And the consumer marketing efforts will continue to build demand and bring higher returns to growers for this high value food product. “Most consumers don’t realize they can buy Canadian pears into the winter season,” says Ecker. “We’re continuing our marketing and brand awareness push with consumers. We have marketing partners in Nova Scotia. And as we continue to grow consumer demand for our pear, we have plans to expand production with growers in British Columbia.” Cold Snap pears will be available in five retailers in Ontario and Quebec for the 2017 season: Loblaws, Sobeys, Metro, Wal-Mart and Costco.
September 7, 2017, Niagara, Ont – The Grape Growers of Ontario, Wine Council of Ontario and Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario have successfully negotiated a grape price agreement for the 2017 harvest. This agreement recognizes the various price categories within the industry, and includes an important proviso for both processors and producers to actively participate in developing a sustainable industry wide plan following harvest.   “The constant in our industry is the consistent grape quality our growers produce every year to make 100 per cent Ontario grown wine,” said Matthias Oppenlaender, chair of the GGO. “This agreement recognizes that growers, with their wine partners, can work together to collectively build and strengthen our grape and wine industry’s future.” “WGAO members purchase some 85 per cent of the grapes grown by independent farmers in Ontario for VQA and International Canadian Blend (ICB) wines, and we are very pleased that grape growers and processors have arrived at an agreement for grape prices in 2017,” stated Del Rollo, chair of the WGAO. “I’m pleased we were able to reach an agreement on grape pricing for the 2017 harvest,” said Len Pennachetti, chair of the WCO. “The agreement provides price certainty, which will help wineries plan and potentially grow their businesses.” Ontario’s grape and wine industry is a significant economic driver to the provincial economy which contributes over $4.4 billion economic impact through jobs, tourism and taxes, particularly in the province’s designated viticulture areas: Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, Lake Erie North Shore, and the emerging South Coast region.
August 9, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The Agri-tourism and Farm Direct Marketing Bus Tour takes place September 11, 2017, in the Spruce Grove/West Yellowhead region. “The tour will feature family-run businesses doing innovative things on smaller farms in rural Alberta,” says Colin Gosselin, with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry based in Stony Plain. “It will also feature a delicious local food lunch, an artisan winery tour, an experienced agri-tourism coach, and opportunities for networking, sharing, and discussion.” Stops are at Happy Acres U-Pick, Shady Lane Estate and Leaman Exchange. Cost for the tour is $25 per person, and includes tour transportation, lunch and refreshments. The bus pick-up and drop-off point will be in the Spruce Grove area. An alternate drop-off point in the Wildwood area is possible. To register, call 1-800-387-603 by September 6. For more information, contact Colin Gosselin at 780-968-3518.
October 12, 2017, Deschambault, Que – The Canadian government is prioritizing science and innovation and the competitiveness of the agriculture industry as a whole to create better business opportunities for producers and Canadians. Funding was announced recently for two projects by the Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault (CRSAD), including a plan to increase the pollination efficiency of bees to achieve better yields in cranberry production. Funding of $183,127 will enable the CRSAD to identify the best method of feeding bees with sucrose syrup and to test variations of that method to maximize the bees’ pollination efficiency in cranberry production. The outcomes of this project are designed to increase cranberry yields and decrease bee feeding costs. “The CRSAD is very appreciative of the federal government’s strong support for its research activities,” said Jean-Paul Laforest, president of the CRSAD. “Canada holds an enviable position in the world for cranberry production, and bees are major allies of the industry. Our project will deliver positive outcomes for both cranberry production and the bees themselves.” In 2016, the Quebec cranberry industry generated nearly $82 million in market receipts and over $30 million in exports.  
October 12, 2017, Madison, WI – The colour red is splashed across gardens, forests and farms, attracting pollinators with bright hues, signaling ripe fruit and delighting vegetable and flower gardeners alike. But if you put a ruby raspberry up against a crimson beet and look closely, you might just notice: they are different reds. Millions of years ago, one family of plants – the beets and their near and distant cousins – hit upon a brand new red pigment and discarded the red used by the rest of the plant world. How this new red evolved, and why a plant that makes both kinds of red pigment has never been found, are questions that have long attracted researchers puzzling over plant evolution. Writing recently in the journal New Phytologist, University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Botany Hiroshi Maeda and his colleagues describe an ancient loosening up of a key biochemical pathway that set the stage for the ancestors of beets to develop their characteristic red pigment. By evolving an efficient way to make the amino acid tyrosine, the raw material for the new red, this plant family freed up extra tyrosine for more uses. Later innovations turned the newly abundant tyrosine scarlet. The new findings can aid beet breeding programs and provide tools and information for scientists studying how to turn tyrosine into its many useful derivatives, which include morphine and vitamin E. “The core question we have been interested in is how metabolic pathways have evolved in different plants, and why plants can make so many different compounds,” says Maeda. “Beets were the perfect start for addressing the question.” The vast majority of plants rely on a class of pigments called anthocyanins to turn their leaves and fruits purple and red. But the ancestors of beets developed the red and yellow betalains, and then turned off the redundant anthocyanins. Besides beets, the colour is found in Swiss chard, rhubarb, quinoa and cactuses, among thousands of species. Betalains are common food dyes and are bred for by beet breeders. When Maeda lab graduate student and lead author of the new paper Samuel Lopez-Nieves isolated the enzymes in beets that produce tyrosine, he found two versions. One was inhibited by tyrosine – a natural way to regulate the amount of the amino acid, by shutting off production when there is a lot of it. But the second enzyme was much less sensitive to regulation by tyrosine, meaning it could keep making the amino acid without being slowed down. The upshot was that beets produced much more tyrosine than other plants, enough to play around with and turn into betalains. Figuring that humans had bred this highly active tyrosine pathway while selecting for bright-red beets, Lopez-Nieves isolated the enzymes from wild beets. “Even the wild ancestor of beets, sea beet, had this deregulated enzyme already. That was unexpected. So, our initial hypothesis was wrong,” says Lopez-Nieves. So he turned to spinach, a more distant cousin that diverged from beets longer ago. Spinach also had two copies, one that was not inhibited by tyrosine, meaning the new tyrosine pathway must be older than the spinach-beet ancestor. The researchers needed to go back much further in evolutionary time to find when the ancestor of beets evolved a second, less inhibited enzyme. Working with collaborators at the University of Michigan and the University of Cambridge, Maeda’s team analyzed the genomes of dozens of plant families, some that made betalains and others that diverged before the new pigments had evolved. They discovered that the tyrosine pathway innovation – with one enzyme free to make more of the amino acid – evolved long before betalains. Only later did other enzymes evolve that could turn the abundant tyrosine into the red betalains. “Our initial hypothesis was the betalain pigment pathway evolved and then, during the breeding process, people tweaked the tyrosine pathway in order to further increase the pigment. But that was not the case,” says Maeda. “It actually happened way back before. And it provided an evolutionary stepping stone toward the evolution of this novel pigment pathway.” The takeaway of this study, says Maeda, is that altering the production of raw materials like tyrosine opens up new avenues for producing the varied and useful compounds that make plants nature’s premier chemists. For some unknown ancestor of beets and cactuses, this flexibility in raw materials allowed it to discover a new kind of red that the world had not seen before, one that is still splashed across the plant world today.
October 11, 2017, West Lafayette, IN – Apple growers want to get the most out of their high-value cultivars, and a Purdue University study shows they might want to focus on the types of apples they plant near those cash crops. Since apple trees cannot self-pollinate, the pollen from other apple varieties is necessary for fruit to grow. Orchard owners often plant crab apple trees amongst high-value apples such as Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji. Crab apples produce a lot of flowers and thus a lot of pollen for bees to spread around to the other trees. “If you are growing some Honeycrisp, you want to plant something next to your Honeycrisp that bees will pick up and spread to your Honeycrisp and make good apples,” said Peter Hirst, a Purdue professor of horticulture and landscape architecture. “Growers will alternate plantings of different cultivars every few rows to promote cross-pollination, and they’ll sometimes put a crab apple tree in the middle of a row as well.” Hirst and Khalil Jahed, a Purdue doctoral student, wondered if it mattered which type of apple pollinated high-value cultivars. To find out, they manually applied pollen from Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, and two types of crab apple – Ralph Shay and Malus floribunda – to Honeycrisp, Fuji and Gala. They put a net over the trees to keep the bees out, so they could control the pollen that was applied. Their findings, published recently in the journal HortScience, showed that Honeycrisp pollinated with the Red Delicious variety doubled fruit set — the conversion of flowers into fruit — compared to Honeycrisp pollinated with the crab apple varieties. In Honeycrisp, pollen tubes created by Red Delicious pollen reached on average 85 per cent of the distance to the ovary, compared to 40 per cent for pollen tubes from crab apple pollen. And fruit set with Red Delicious pollen was four times higher in the first year of the study, and eight times higher in the second, compared to crab apples. “On Honeycrisp especially, the two crab apples we tried are not very effective at all. The pollen grows very slowly, and you end up with reduced fruit set as a consequence,” Hirst said. The crab apples did better with Fuji and Gala but still didn’t match the effectiveness of Red Delicious pollen. When pollen lands on the pistil of the flower, it must be recognized, and if it is compatible, the pollen will germinate and grow down the style to the ovary. Once fertilized, the ovule becomes a seed and the flower becomes a fruit. Jahed collected flowers from pollinated trees each day for four days after pollination and measured pollen tube growth and fruit set. Overall, the Red Delicious was the best pollinizer, followed by Golden Delicious and then the crab apple varieties. Jahed said the experiment should lead apple growers to consider the design of their orchards to ensure that better pollinizers are planted near high-value crops. “If they have a good pollinizer and a compatible pollinizer, the fruit quality and fruit set will be higher than with those that are not compatible,” Jahed said. The research was part of Jahed’s master’s degree thesis, which he has completed. He and Hirst do not plan to continue studying the effectiveness of different pollinizers, but he hopes that others take up the research. They do plan to publish one final paper on pollination and fruit quality in 2018.
October 4, 2017 – Soils keep plants healthy by providing plants with water, helpful minerals, and microbes, among other benefits. But what if the soil also contains toxic elements? In some growing areas, soils are naturally rich in elements, such as cadmium. Leafy vegetables grown in these soils can take up the cadmium and become harmful to humans. What to do? The solution goes back to the soil. Adrian Paul, a former researcher now working in the Sustainable Mineral Institute in Brisbane, Australia, is working to find which soil additives work best. Cadmium appears in very low levels or in forms that prevent contamination in soils across the world. However, some soils naturally have more than others. It can result from the erosion of local rock formations. In some instances, it’s present due to human activity. Metal processing, fertilizer or fossil fuel combustion, for example, can leave cadmium behind. Cadmium may decrease people’s kidney function and bone density. As a result, international guidelines set safety limits on cadmium found in food. Growers with otherwise fertile fields need to grow food within these safe levels. Their livelihood depends on it. “Our research aims to protect producers and consumers by lowering the cadmium in vegetables. This gives producers the ability to grow safe, profitable crops,” Paul says. “Consumers need to be able to safely eat what the farmers grow.” Paul worked with four additives: zinc and manganese salts, limestone, and biosolids [nutrient-rich organic materials from sewage processed at a treatment facility] compost. Although each works in a slightly different manner, the soil amendments generally solve the cadmium problem in two ways. They can prevent the passage of cadmium from the soil to the plant by offering competing nutrients. They can also chemically alter the cadmium so it is unavailable. The researchers found that a combination of compost, zinc, and limestone brought the levels of cadmium in spinach down to nontoxic levels. The next step in this work is to better determine the ideal combination of the soil amendments. Researchers also want to study vegetables besides spinach, and other elements. “Farmlands provide for us all,” Paul says. ”Rehabilitating agricultural fields, by removing heavy metals like cadmium, means healthier soils and healthier food.” Read more about this study in the Journal of Environmental Quality.
September 18, 2017, Brooks, Alta – Potato plants need a lot of nitrogen to produce tubers at optimum levels, but with more applied nitrogen comes an increased risk of nitrogen loss to the atmosphere. Guillermo Hernandez Ramirez, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, is studying the use and loss of that fertilizer in potato crops. He is testing various nitrogen fertilizer formulations and biostimulants to gauge their effect on potato productivity and nitrous oxide emissions. READ MORE  
September 13, 2017, Kelowna, BC – An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the mold on it could make you sick. Rhiannon Wallace, a PhD candidate at University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus, has developed a way to stop, or at least control, blue mold – a pathogen that can rot an apple to its core. Wallace’s research has determined that bacteria, originally isolated from cold Saskatchewan soils, may be the answer to preventing mold growth and apple rot while the fruit is in storage or transport. “The majority of postharvest fungal pathogens are opportunistic,” explains Wallace, who is working with UBC Biology Prof. Louise Nelson. “If a fruit is physically damaged, it is at an increased risk of rotting during storage. So a tiny blemish on the fruit from harvest or handling can turn into a conduit for attack by fungal pathogens and subsequently result in the development of mold.” The fungal pathogen Penicillium expansum, also known as blue mold, destroys millions of stored apples each year. Post-harvest rot can result in yield losses of up to 20 per cent in developed countries such as Canada, while developing countries can lose up to 50 per cent of the crop, Wallace says. The goal of her research is to reduce the amount of produce lost due to post-harvest blue mold. Traditionally, post-harvest rot has been controlled with chemical fungicides, but Wallace says these treatments have become less effective as the pathogen has developed resistance and there is consumer pushback to the chemicals. The research by Wallace and Nelson aims to provide a safer and more sustainable alternative to fungicides. Wallace suggests the solution may lie in a particular bacterium specific to Saskatchewan soil. Pseudomonas fluorescens, due to its prairie roots, can survive in cold storage – a characteristic that is key to dealing with cold-stored produce like apples. During tests conducted at the British Columbia Tree Fruits Cooperative storage facility in the Okanagan, Wallace determined that these bacteria can prevent blue mold from growing on McIntosh and Spartan apples while in storage. In addition, during these experiments, the bacteria provided control of blue mold on apples that was comparable to a commercially available biological control agent and a chemical fungicide. “What is novel about our research is that we show the bacterial isolates we tested have an array of mechanisms to inhibit or kill Penicillium expansum (blue mold) on apples while fungicides generally act only by a single mode,” Wallace says. “These findings suggest that the development of resistance by blue mold against our soil bacteria is unlikely.” She does note that while all three isolates of P. fluorescens tested provided control of blue mold, the level of control provided by each isolate varied with apple variety. Wallace’s research, supported by the Canadian Horticulture Council and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was recently published in the journal Postharvest Biology and Technology. Further support came from the BC Tree Fruits Cooperative and Agriculture Canada’s Summerland Research and Development Centre.
September 18, 2017, Churchbridge, SK – Strawberry and blueberry farmer Dusty Zamecnik of Frogmore, Ont, was named the 2017 Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for the Ontario Region at the annual awards event held September 12 in conjunction with Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. Zamecnik, a graduate of Francis Xavier, is fourth generation owner of EZ Grow Farms Ltd and partner in Hometown Brew Co. EZ Grow began as a tobacco farm but has evolved into blueberry production and strawberry propagation. By specializing, Zamecnik feels their competitive advantage is maximized. The Ontario OYF region was honoured to have four nominees participate in the event. They were: Amanda & Steve Hammell, Tara, Ont; Jessica Foote, Janetville, Ont; Josh & Ellen and Rudi & Jennifer Biemond, Iroquois, Ont; and Dusty Zamecnik, Frogmore, Ont. “The Ontario region of Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers has, once again, celebrated the accomplishments of a passionate group of inspiring producers,” said Jack Thomson, past president of Canada’s OYF. “Our recipient of the Ontario award, Dusty Zamecnik, has a can-do approach to his business. Passion, entrepreneurship and dedication are the foundation of any great business and Dusty displays these in spades.” After obtaining his degree and working a few years off-farm, Zamecnik came home to take over his family’s farm. The operation moved away from rosebushes and tomatoes and focused on strawberry propagation. Orders have increased from six million plants to 16 million plants per year. The farm is now propagating breed stock to which they have exclusive rights. Blueberries produced are sold direct to consumers in patented containers, which helped to establish brand identity. Hometown Brew Co is Zamecnik’s latest venture. He partnered with two cousins in 2016 to create a microbrewery that has three brews, including one which features the farm’s blueberries. Zamecnik believes in being a positive voice for agriculture by using social media and being involved in local fruit organizations. Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2017 will be chosen at the National Event in Penticton, BC, from November 30 to December 3, 2017.
September 7, 2017, Churchbridge, Sask – Organic vegetable producers Veronique Bouchard and Francois Handsfield of Mont-Tremblant QC, were named the 2017 Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for the Quebec Region at their annual awards event held at the CentreExpo Cogeco de Drummondville on August 31. With no farm history but shared values and dreams, Veronique and Francois became owners of “ferme aux petits oignons” where they grow more than 65 different vegetables, aromatic herbs, flowers and fruits that are certifed organic by Ecocert Canada. Protecting soil, water and energy is important to Veronique, who has a Masters in Environment, and Francois, who is a bioresource engineer. “What a beautiful evening to celebrate the excellence of agriculture” said Franck Groeneweg, Canada OYF West vice chair. “Veronique Bouchard and Francois Handfield started with nothing and now produce vegetables on 10 acres that generate an impressive income while cherishing a balanced quality of life. I wish them well at the national competition in Penticton.” The farm, located in a beautiful Laurentian valley, produces a wide variety of vegetables, all distributed in the immediate area. The farm is small, but profitable as they focus on control production costs. Their products are available at the summer market, directly at the farm store or through the internet subscription process for organic baskets they have developed. The couple believe “they must constantly innovate and get off the beaten track” and are always willing to share their many innovations during workshops, visits to the farm and as mentors to new farmers/farms. Celebrating 37 years, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year. Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2017 will be chosen at the National Event in Penticton, BC, from November 30 to December 3, 2017.
August 28, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – When Josh Whitehead and Caroline Pilon started selling homemade kimchi at the Guelph Farmers’ Market about 12 years ago, they were simply doing something they loved.Word spread about their Korean-style fermented sauerkraut and their business quickly grew.“We stumbled into making food for the retail market,” said Whitehead, co-founder of Green Table Foods together with his wife Caroline. “We didn’t set out to try and change trends. I’d been making kimchi since I was about 15 years old, and we just wanted to make something we loved.”Their first big customer was the Ontario Natural Food Co-op, looking for a private label to manufacture organic sauerkraut. They formulated three recipes that fit the organization’s requirement for 100 per cent organic and 100 per cent Ontario, and started manufacturing in 2009.Kimchi and the other fermented vegetables may be newer foods for North Americans, but according to Whitehead, it is one of the oldest food categories in existence. No cooking is used to produce their products, retaining more of the vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants of the raw ingredients and Green Table Foods work with a wild fermentation process.“We use a slower fermentation method that uses the ambient bacteria that are naturally found on vegetables to create our products,” Whitehead said. “The flavours in the finished product reflect where the vegetables came from. It’s like wine that way.”Fermented products also retain the probiotics and enzymes that occur in the vegetables, often lost in the cooking process.“When you cook cabbage to make sauerkraut, compared to fermenting it, you cook out all the probiotics, including much of the Vitamin C and enzymes that are vital for digestion,” he said.From the initial product line of organic kimchi, organic sauerkraut and kale kimchi, Green Table Foods added five new products about a year ago with matching funds through the Bioenterprise Enterprise Seed Fund.This allowed them to formulate, develop, test, label and launch five new fermented vegetables products in September 2016.While Green Table Foods started out just making something they love, they’ve built a business that also supports their local suppliers. They’ve consciously set out to source vegetables from local farmers to build a sustainable business that creates economies of scale for their suppliers, and operate a carbon neutral business.“It’s really important to us to build relationships with our growers, and help incentivize them to be able to provide the products we need all year,” Whitehead said.Green Table Foods offers eight fermented vegetable products including carrots, cabbage, beets and tomato salsa – manufactured at their Guelph, Ontario federally registered plant – and marketed at 800 retail locations across Canada.They are now looking at exporting their fermented vegetables to the Asian Pacific region, formulating a product for people living in radioactive zones that require additional dietary iodine, and sending products into space.“I would love to collaborate to provide living, fermented Canadian food for astronauts that would be a much better nutritional option than dehydrated food,” Whitehead said.
August 25, 2017, Fredericton, N.B. - Benoit Bizimungu spends about 12 years working on a single type of potato, trying to develop a more resilient crop that requires less fertilizer or chemical.The research scientist had a chance to share his work with the public last week when his workplace, the Fredericton Research and Development Centre, opened its laboratory doors to the public on Saturday, Aug. 19th.More than 300 people stopped by the open house to get a peek into the federal facility, which primarily focuses on researching potatoes. READ MORE 
July 31, 2017, Milton, Ont. - It’s no secret — the lavender plant provides a bouquet of benefits. The fields are stunning, the blooms aromatic, and it has proven itself to be a versatile remedy for centuries, with oils rich in health benefits.So it’s really no surprise that the prized plant isn’t so bad for agri-tourism too.With about 40,000 plants, Terre Bleu Lavender Farm near Milton in Halton Region is now the largest lavender farm in Ontario. Their vast fragrant fields, handmade natural products, and charming open-air events bring heaps of visitors out year after year. And they’re only getting busier. (On some weekends now, they even reach capacity.) READ MORE 
July 28, 2017, North Carolina - Laura Lengnick is a big thinker on agriculture and the environment. She has been guided in her work by the understanding that the problems generated by the U.S. industrial food system have been as significant as its ability to produce vast quantities of food. As she sees it, it’s not enough to produce food if there’s not a reckoning of costs and benefits from an unbalanced system.This comprehensive outlook is a hallmark of Lengnick’s work, as is her positive vision for a more equitable and sustainable future. When it comes to her career, the question is not what work Lengnick has done to explore resilient, sustainable agriculture, but what hasn’t she done. Soil scientist, policymaker as a Senate staffer, USDA researcher, professor, sustainability consultant, advocate—Lengnick has done it all.With her home nestled in a sunny cove in the North Carolina mountains, she bio-intensively tends to her 3,000-square-foot micro-farm. (She grows everything from greens and radishes to figs and sweet potatoes.) Based on her rich experience and deep expertise, Lengnick now views herself as a science interpreter in her interactions with farmers, public officials and the public at large. (She calls it “science-in-place"). Lengnick is the author of many articles and papers for scholars, practitioners and the general public, including the useful and engaging book Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate. She was also selected as a contributor to the Third National Climate Assessment, the authoritative U.S. climate report. Over the years she’s traveled throughout the United States to meet with farmers to investigate the challenges and successes in the field and present her findings to many different audiences. Most recently, Lengnick has been invited to collaborate with the world-renowned Stockholm Resilience Centre, which will bring her views to an even larger audience. In a series of conversations, Lengnick and I spoke about her background, career, and philosophy to better explain where she is today. READ MORE 
October 13, 2017, Plessisville, Que – A Quebec-based organic cranberry processor is now ready to expand production and boost exports, thanks to an investment from the federal government.The investment, announced Oct. 13, has helped Fruit d’Or commission a new plant just as Canadian food processors are taking advantage of new market opportunities under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, which took effect September 21. Since then, Fruit d’Or has sold around 635,000 pounds of dry fruits in Europe.The federal government helped build the new plant, and buy and commission new equipment and technologies, thanks to more than $9.3 million in funding under the AgriInnovation Program of the Growing Forward 2 Agreement.“Agriculture and Agri‑Food Canada’s support through the AgriInnovation Program and interest-free financing is very important for Fruit d’Or,” said Martin Le Moine, president and CEO of the company. “Fruit d’Or has invested more than $50 million in its new Plessisville plant over the past two years. Because of this support, Fruit d’Or has an ultra-modern facility, equipped with innovations that enable it to provide its clients in more than 50 countries with innovative products that showcase Quebec cranberries and berries.”Fruit d'Or produces cranberry juice and dried fruits to meet the growing demand of consumers around the world. As a result of this project, the company has increased its processing capacity by eight million pounds of traditional cranberries and 15 million pounds of organic cranberries over three years.
September 25, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Ontario tender fruit farmers need the right mix of rain, sunshine and growing temperatures to produce juicy, fresh peaches, pears, cherries, apricots and nectarines. But when extreme weather hits during critical crop development, it can wreak havoc on an entire crop. And unpredictable weather events are becoming more and more common. The Ontario Tender Fruit Growers saw the need for a better way to work with whatever the weather sends their way. “We had no good data available to know the damage that would result to our fruit crops from extreme temperatures,” says Phil Tregunno, chair of Ontario Tender Fruit. With Growing Forward 2 funding through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the producer group was able to work with researchers to assess the bud hardiness of various tender fruit crops. Bud hardiness gives an indication of the temperature the dormant buds can withstand before there will be damage to the resulting crop. “If we want to be able to provide Ontario and Canadian consumers with high quality, local fruit, we need to have better tools to manage extreme weather,” says Tregunno. Data gathered on the bud hardiness of tender fruit crops now feeds a new real-time, automated weather alert system to help Ontario tender fruit growers make decisions about how to manage extreme weather events. Developed in partnership with Brock University, KCMS Inc., Weather INnovations Inc. and Ontario Tender Fruit, the new system runs on regional temperatures that are updated every 15 minutes, and bud survival data. With 90 per cent of tender fruit production in the Niagara region, the bulk of the weather information comes from that area of the province. The new weather tool is available to growers at TenderFruitAlert.ca and is searchable by location, commodity and cultivar. The site provides information to help growers monitor bud cold hardiness through the fruits’ dormant period and manage winter injury. “Being prepared is half the battle when you farm with the weather,” says Tregunno. “This new tool gives us accurate, local weather, and matches that with the susceptibility of the specific crops and cultivars to predict that temperature when a grower will start to see crop losses. With that information, growers can make management decisions about how to deal with extreme weather – including the use of wind machines to keep temperatures above the critical point for crop injury.” Ontario is home to more than 250 tender fruit growers, generating more than $55 million in annual sales from fresh market and processing. Those growers all remember the devastating cold weather in the spring of 2012 that saw tender fruit losses of 31 per cent to 89 per cent.  The new web-based cold hardiness database will help growers respond and prepare for potentially damaging weather events, and that will help protect the valuable fresh, local markets, Ontario’s Niagara region is so well known for.
September 20, 2017, Washington – Storing Honeycrisp long-term while achieving good packouts and maintaining fruit of acceptable eating quality in the second part of the storage season has been a continuous challenge for our industry. Up until last year, most packers had become comfortable knowing what types of performance to expect out of each lot. With Honeycrisp, you basically had to control your decay, manage chilling injuries (mainly soft scald), and bitter pit. We did know that this apple was sensitive to carbon dioxide injury but, aside from the occasional cavities, most packers did not report having significant problems. READ MORE    
August 16, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Canadian fruit growers need the best varieties of plants to be successful. In the case of Canadian strawberry growers, they grow the best varieties of plants, which foreign buyers demand. The import and export of fruit plants, however, must go through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to test for potentially devastating plant viruses. Currently, this testing and quarantine process takes an average of three years to complete, significantly hampering the speed of trade.Today, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced that the CFIA will lead two projects worth $500,000 that use new DNA-based technologies to reduce the quarantine testing time, helping to boost trade and economic competitiveness in the $240 million Canadian fruit tree industry."Together with provincial partners and industry, our government is making the investments in innovative science that enables agriculture to be a leading growth sector of Canada's economy. Together we can help meet the world's growing demand for high-quality, sustainable food and help grow our middle class," Minister MacAulay, said. The first project will dramatically shorten the testing period of seeds, cuttings and bulbs imported into Canada to grow new varieties of plants. With this funding, scientists will use DNA technology to test for all viruses associated with imported plants to get an early indication of any plant diseases present. This approach could reduce the quarantine testing time by up to two and a half years.The second project streamlines the testing of strawberry plants. Traditionally, multiple tests for viruses are required before exporting strawberry plants to foreign markets. This project will test for multiple viruses in one single test, dramatically reducing the time and cost to get plants to market.Funding for these projects is provided through a partnership between the CFIA, Genome British Columbia, Summerland Varieties Corporation, Phyto Diagnostics, the British Columbia Cherry Association, and Vineland Research and Innovations Centre."Canadian import/export markets will be stronger and more competitive because of these genomics-based tools. Early detection of pathogens and viruses is a vital outcome of genomics and it is being applied across many key economic sectors." Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Genome British Columbia said. 
July 10, 2017, Quebec - Though cool, wet weather slowed Quebec’s early strawberry production and kept customers waiting longer than they would have liked, the results of the extended growing period are looking spectacular.“June berries are right on time,” said Jennifer Crawford, interim director of the Quebec Strawberry and Raspberry Growers Association, which represents nearly 500 producers, “and we’re seeing beautiful, productive plants with tons of flowers and large berries.”Joey Boudreault, business development manager for the Onésime Pouliot farm in Saint-Jean-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, Quebec, finished planting day neutral berries for the fall in mid-June and began harvesting June berries June 20. READ MORE
July 7, 2017, Quebec - Though it’s too early to tell, Quebec apple growers are set for a good season, said Stephanie Lavasseur, president of Longueuil-based Quebec Apple Producers.Last year’s crop is almost finished, said Lavasseur, and Quebec apples should be available until the end of July.According to this year’s annual poll to measure the awareness and popularity of apples among Quebecers, McIntosh and Honeycrisp remain popular, with macs far ahead of other favorites. For the first time, Granny Smith apples fell off the top five list. READ MORE
October 10, 2017, Beeton, Ont – It’s potato harvest season once again and as storage bins throughout the area begin to fill up with mounds of taters, some farmers are finding themselves in a bit of a high-wire act to ensure they don’t lose their crops. Mark Vanoostrum, the supply and quality manager for W.D. Potato in Beeton, said the chipping potatoes harvested so far are revealing the effects of all the wacky weather the area experienced this past summer. One of the big challenges is making sure the potatoes don’t sit too long and turn bad, so timely co-ordination of shipments to potato chip companies is critical. READ MORE
September 14, 2017, Guelph, Ont – The potato person who said many years ago “A potato storage is not a hospital” was absolutely right. Diseased or bruised tubers do not get better in storage. Tubers bruised at harvest are easily invaded by soft rot or Fusarium dry rot, which can cause serious economic losses in storage. Harvest management, in large part, is bruise management. Bruising also affects tuber quality significantly. In order to harvest potatoes with minimum tuber damage, growers need to implement digging, handling and storage management practices that maintain the crop quality for as long as possible after harvest. Assuming all harvest and handling equipment are mechanically ready to harvest the crop with minimum bruising, there are several tips to preserve the quality of potatoes crop during harvest: Timely Vine Killing. Killing the vines when tubers are mature makes harvesting easier by reducing the total vine mass moving through the harvester. This allows an easier separation of tubers from vines. Timely Harvest. Potatoes intended for long term storage should not be harvested until the vines have been dead for at least 14 days to allow for full skin set to occur. Soil Moisture. Optimal harvest conditions are at 60 to 65 per cent available soil moisture. Tuber Pulp Temperature. Optimal pulp temperatures for harvest are from 500 F to 600 F. Proper pulp temperature is critical; tubers are very sensitive to bruising when the pulp temperature is below 450 F. If pulp temperatures are above 650 F, tubers become very susceptible to soft rot and Pythium leak. Pulp temperatures above 70 F increase the risk of pink rot tremendously no matter how gently you handle the tubers if there is inoculum in the soil. Tuber Hydration. An intermediate level of tuber hydration results in the least bruising. Overhydrated tubers dug from wet soil are highly sensitive to shatter bruising especially when the pulp temperature is below 450 F. In addition, tubers harvested from cold, wet soil are more difficult to cure and more prone to breakdown in storage. Slightly dehydrated tubers dug from dry soil are highly sensitive to blackspot bruising. Reducing Blackspot Bruising. Irrigate soil that is excessively dry before digging to prevent tuber dehydration and blackspot bruising. Bruise Detection Devices. Try to keep the volume of soil and tubers moving through the digger at capacity at all points of the machine. If bruising is noticeable, use a bruise detection device to determine where in the machinery the tubers are being bruised. Field Conditions. Do not harvest potatoes from low, poorly drained areas of a field where water may have accumulated and/or dig tests have indicated the presence of tubers infected with late blight. Train all employees on how to reduce bruising. Harvester operators must be continually on the look out for equipment problems that may be damaging tubers. Ideally, growers should implement a bruise management program that includes all aspects of potato production from planting through harvest. Harvest when day temperatures are not too warm to avoid tuber infections. Storage rots develop very rapidly at high temperatures and spread easily in storage. If potatoes are harvested at temperatures above 27 C and cool off slowly in storage, the likelihood of storage rots is increased. If warm weather is forecast, dig the crop early in the morning when it is not so warm.
August 29, 2017, Vineland, Ont. – Farmers interested in adding a new crop to their production line-up may want to look at okra as an opportunity.That’s according to researchers at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) who have been working with the crop for the past five years and have some very promising results from two years of field trials with three okra varieties.“We know okra can be grown commercially in southern Ontario and that yields of 20,000 kg per hectare are possible,” said Vineland research scientist Dr. Viliam Zvalo.Canada imported over six million kilograms of okra in 2015 – an increase of 43 per cent since 2011 – so the market demand for this new crop, popular especially in South and Southeast Asian cuisine, is there.Zvalo is particularly excited about three additional varieties Vineland has been able to source from East West Seeds from Thailand. The company is a key player in the okra seed market in countries like India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand where much of the world’s okra is grown.“We planted some of these varieties in June last year and were amazed by the yield potential,” he said. “I believe they may outperform the varieties we’ve been using so far and we are quite optimistic they’ll do very well here.”Okra grows well in Canada’s hot summers but less is known about its performance in cooler, wet weather. However, Zvalo believes these new Asian varieties, which are developed for the cooler monsoon season, should perform well in Canada. Also, one variety is slower to mature than others, which means it needs to be harvested only every two or three days.“Normally okra has to be picked daily to keep it from over-ripening and becoming woody, so this would give growers a bit of a buffer at harvest time,” he said.Retail support for the new crop has been strong with prices for growers averaging $2.50 – $2.60 per pound. The key to getting into the okra business, though, is knowing the market, believes Zvalo.“Big retailers are very interested in locally-grown okra, but are unlikely to deal with growers who only grow half an acre,” he said. “And if you’re harvesting and shipping daily, you need to be reasonably close to the market to get the crop there on time and be cost-competitive.”For those interested in experimenting with okra, Vineland will provide a small quantity of seeds per variety as well as technical assistance related to growing the crop. This lets growers see first-hand how the varieties perform in their particular climate and soil.According to Zvalo, the crop will grow reasonably well in areas of 2700 – 3300 crop heat units and growers in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba are trialing all six of the varieties this year.Vineland has been conducting okra research on optimal plant spacing, fertilization, use of covers in early spring as well as the impact on yield potential of direct seeding versus transplanting. More information is at http://vinelandresearch.com/program/feeding-diversity-bringing-world-crops-market.“I think the okra story is definitely more promising today than it was just a few years ago,” Zvalo said.Vineland’s okra research is funded in part by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, through the AgriInnovation Program.
August 11, 2017, Langley, BC – There are more than 24,000 people employed in British Columbia’s agriculture industry and sun and heat exposure are workplace hazards for many of them. Agriculture workers have a 2.5 to 3.5 times greater risk of developing skin cancer than indoor workers, according to a Sun Safety At Work Canada 2016 report. Employers are responsible for addressing this risk. AgSafe, BC’s agriculture health and safety association, suggests the best way to reduce the risk of sun and heat exposure in the workplace is to implement a sun and heat safety action plan for outside workers. “There are resources available for those who employ outdoor workers to help them develop and implement a sun and heat safety plan,” says Wendy Bennett, executive director of AgSafe. “The key is controlling the worker’s exposure to sun and the possibility of heat stress.” Checking Environment Canada’s UV index regularly to monitor worker risk and providing a shade structure, where practical or enabling shade breaks on the worksite will help reduce the effects of sun exposure. Scheduling heavy work outside of the hottest times of the day – before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m. – when UV levels are lower, along with regular “cool-down” rest periods, will help reduce the risk of heat stress. Knowing the signs of heat stress – decrease in alertness, extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, and fast shallow breathing, is very important and should be acted upon immediately if they present. Bennett adds that the risk of heat stress is higher when employees are working outdoors with equipment that gives off heat. Tips to avoid sun exposure and heat stress: Wear loose-fitting tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing; wide brimmed hats that shade the face, ears and neck; apply sunscreen throughout the day Wear sunglasses to protect eyes from UV rays Hydrate regularly with water Take breaks in the shade Additional sun and heat safety information is available by visiting www.SunSafetyAtWork.ca or www.Weather.gc.ca.
August 16, 2017, Lethbridge, Alta. - Alberta’s potato industry is worth more than $1 billion to our economy. But it’s threatened by a tiny bacteriumThis year, a Lethbridge scientist reports, it hasn’t shown up.“That’s good news,” says Dan Johnson, a biogeography professor at the University of Lethbridge. He explains the bacteria are linked with zebra chip disease – already affecting crops in the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand. It turned up as early as May in Idaho this year.Potatoes infected by the bacteria develop unsightly black lines when they’re fried, making them unfit for sale. The bacteria are carried by an insect, the potato psyllid. READ MORE
July 13, 2017, P.E.I. - This year’s Canadian acreage of J.R. Simplot’s genetically engineered Innate potato will be “very small” to non-existent, according to a company spokesperson.Kerwin Bradley, director of commercial innovation for Simplot, says the company’s marketing strategy for new varieties is based on customer polls and identification of marketing channels. “We don’t plant potatoes, or give seed to growers, until we know that there is a place for them to sell them, so how quickly that develops depends on how quickly we develop routes to market for those potatoes,” he says.“That way we ensure we keep the risk really low for everybody, especially the growers.”The company has been talking to major Canadian retailers to “check the pulse” of their interest in the new potato, says Doug Cole, Simpot’s director of marketing and communications.First generation lines of the Innate potato, which boast lower bruising and acrylamide, were approved by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency last spring. Second generation lines, which have late blight resistance and lower sugar levels for improved processing, have already been approved in the U.S., and Canadian approvals are expected later this year. READ MORE

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