Production

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.
Alberta farms are seeing more opportunities to sell their products directly to consumers, as more people want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced.Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) has been tracking local food demand trends in various direct to consumer market channels, including on-farm retail, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA) since 2004.“Local food sales through direct to consumer market channels have more than doubled since 2008,” says Christine Anderson, local foods specialist with AF. “We are expecting sales from this past year to reach $1.2 billion.”The Study of Local Food Demand in Alberta 2016 found that food spending at farmers’ markets, farm retail, and restaurants serving local food in Alberta exceeded $1.5 billion in that year.The 2016 Census of Agriculture included a question about farms selling food directly to consumers. It found that about five per cent, or 2,062 farms in Alberta, sold food directly to consumers, below the national average of 12.6 per cent.“That breaks down to one Alberta farm selling directly to consumers for every 1,972 Albertans,” says Anderson. “When compared to the national average of one direct to consumer farm for every 1,434 people, there is a clear opportunity for new farms to enter the direct sales market in Alberta.”Of those 2,062 Alberta farms selling directly to consumers, 35 per cent were new entrants to direct to consumer market channels. Beef cattle farms represented the highest proportion of new entrants at 21 per cent, followed by apiculture at 12 per cent, and animal combination farming at 11 per cent.More than two-thirds of the new entrants were small farms with annual sales less than $50,000, 18 per cent were medium-sized, and 10 per cent were large with sales in excess of $250,000.Most farms, or 85 per cent, sold food and products directly to consumers either at a farm gate, stand, kiosk, or U-pick operation. About 20 per cent sold their product at farmers’ markets, and six per cent through CSA.“Census data indicates that direct marketing farms yielded higher than average profitability compared to farms that did not sell directly to consumers,” explains Anderson. “The profitability ratios of some direct marketing farms were further improved if they sold value-added products through farmers’ markets or CSAs.”Farms marketing directly to consumers also showed a higher average of gross farm receipts to farm area at $442 per acre, compared to farms that did not sell directly to consumers with $349 per acre.“Direct marketing farms also revealed a higher percentage of female operators, at 38 per cent, than other types of farms, at 31 per cent,” notes Anderson. “Interestingly, Alberta has more female direct marketing farm operators than the national average, which is 36 per cent.”The data also showed that young operators who were under the age of 35 were more involved in farm direct marketing in Alberta: Nine per cent compared to eight per cent province-wide in all agriculture operations.For a more information on opportunities in direct to consumer marketing, visit Explore Local or contact Christine Anderson local foods specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Creating marketing campaigns for your business that also raise awareness for a social injustice or issue has become more and more commonplace in the last few years.
Protecting fruit crops from birds and other predators has never been easy. Scarecrows, reflective tape, netting, shotguns, propane-powered bangers and other audible bird scare devices, as well as traps and falcons, number among the most popular tools at growers’ disposal.
University of Florida scientists plan to use a $7.3 million, four-year grant to find the genetic traits that will make sweet corn taste even better, last longer and grow better.Mark Settles, a professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will lead the project. UF/IFAS researchers will also get help from scientists at Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin, Washington State University and the USDA to conduct the study.“What we want to do is find those genes that make sweet corn a tasty vegetable and be able to then use those genes in traditional breeding,” Settles said.For example, researchers hope to boost the sugar levels of sweet corn.“It’s a really popular vegetable. But there have been few game-changing innovations that would boost the taste and yield of sweet corn.”Fewer than 14 per cent of American adults consume the USDA recommended amount of vegetables for a healthy diet, and overall, fruit and vegetable consumption is declining in the U.S., Settles said.“As the fifth most popular vegetable in America, sweet corn is no exception to this trend,” he said. “However, demand for fresh market and frozen corn is increasing, relative to canned corn, and breeders need to be able to provide the best sweet corn seed possible.“Both fresh and processed sweet corn must meet consumer desires for taste, appearance and convenience,” Settles said. “Many quality traits are best addressed through the genetics of sweet corn varieties.”Through test panels run by Sims, researchers will find out tastes, aroma and texture that consumers like. As study participants sample the corn, they’ll also tell how much they’d be willing to pay for it, which makes up the economics portion of the research, Settles said.To get started on finding the best genetic traits, scientists will screen existing sweet corn seeds to find genes that, among other things, help corn grow right after planting, Settles said. This will be particularly helpful for organic farmers, he said.They also hope to try to beat back any pests.Lastly, scientists seek genetic traits that make corn last longer on grocery store shelves and requires less pesticide use, Settles said.“We also want to make corn taste good for longer,” he said.
A University of Florida scientist will lead a team of researchers trying to help battle Fusarium wilt, a major tomato disease around the world.Sam Hutton, an associate professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will use a new $490,000 federal grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to find ways to develop improved varieties that contain genes to help tomatoes thwart Fusarium wilt.Resistance to one type of Fusarium wilt comes from a gene known as I-3, said Hutton, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida. Several years ago, UF/IFAS researchers found this gene in wild tomato relatives and introduced it into commercial varieties through traditional breeding, he said.But while the I-3 gene makes tomatoes more resistant to Fusarium wilt, it also reduces fruit size and increases the potential for bacterial spot disease, Hutton said.“We are conducting the study to remedy this situation,” he said. “Less bacterial spot and larger fruit size should both translate into better returns for the grower.”Hutton wants to know whether the negative impacts that come with the I-3 gene stem from genes that tagged along from the wild tomato relative.“If this is the case, we should be able to eliminate these problems by getting rid of those extra genes by whittling down the size of chromosome that came from the wild species,” Hutton said. “Plants that lack the negative genes will be developed using traditional breeding techniques, and simple molecular genetic tools will help us identify which individuals to keep.”In the project, scientists also are looking again to tomato’s wild relatives, searching for new sources of resistance to Fusarium wilt.“These new resistance genes may not have any of the problems that we currently see with I-3,” Hutton said. “And they may provide novel mechanisms of disease resistance that could further improve breeding efforts.“We expect these efforts to result in an expanded toolkit of resources that can be leveraged to develop improved Fusarium wilt-resistant varieties,” he said.
The word “riparian” refers to the place where streams meet land. This important intersection controls a lot of processes – especially with regard to water quality. Human use of land near streams can negatively impact the purity of the water. And, the aquatic ecosystem is important to overall environmental health. A variety of plant and animal life call these streams their home. Creating strips of vegetation, called buffer strips, is something that scientists have found helps protect these aquatic systems.“Riparian buffer strips” is the technical term that agronomists use to refer to buffer strips on the edge of farm fields. This technique had long been used in Southern Europe for agricultural land. During the 1960s, scientists studied the benefits of leaving riparian buffer strips on the forest land. In the Pacific Northwest industrial forestry was expanding. Riparian buffer strips were found to protect salmon populations from forest harvesting activities. Soon enough, riparian buffers became the primary tool for protecting freshwater ecosystems.Riparian buffer strips can be used for industrial, residential, or even agricultural use.A few of the benefits of riparian buffer strips are: reduce sediment loss from upslope terrain; provide shade and moderate temperature; maintain bank stability; recharge groundwater; protect aquatic habitat; provide wildlife habitat; and, enhance nutrient uptake. Since the 1960s, they have only grown in popularity. As a tool to manage and protect freshwater resources, they are relatively easy to administer and operate. Many states provide resources and financial incentives to support landowners build or restore buffers.How are riparian buffer strips built or maintained? A riparian buffer is usually made up of three zones with the first zone at the water’s edge. Zones two and three move further inland. Each zone has a different width and mixture of plants that depends on the size of the water body, and the desired functions of the buffer. Each zone of the riparian buffers protect freshwater ecosystems in different ways.Zone one usually gets planted with large trees and shrubs. Tree and shrub roots promote bank stability. Even the leaves of the trees can slow down the flow of a heavy rainfall onto the soil. This helps prevent erosion of the soil. Not only is it important to keep the soil where it is, it’s important to keep the soil out of the streams. The leaf canopy provides shade for the much of the riparian area. This shade in this zone can keep the water temperature cooler for fish. Falling leaves and branches provide organic materials for the stream. They even provide resources for animals that live near streams, like beavers (to read more on that, visit here https://www.soils.org/discover-soils/story/beavers-take-chunk-out-nitrogen-northeast-rivers). Trees also provide a habitat for insects that fish feed on, and provide nesting areas for birds. Plants in zone one need to be very tolerant to wet conditions.The second zone is usually a managed forest or a mixed forest shrub land. Zone two is usually planted with native shrubs and small trees like American holly, inkberry, persimmon, and gray dogwood. Tree roots in this zone can slow down water flow from human land use. This improves the flow of water back to groundwater sources, instead of into the stream. The trees also use many of the nutrients that are running off agricultural land. This reduces the amount of nutrients that get to the stream.Zone three is furthest away from the water source, right next to the human use (besides agricultural land, it could be an urban area, parking lot, or even an industrial site.) Zone three is planted with grassland or a mix of grassland and wild flowers. If you’re in a residential or urban area, this area can even be a garden. Zone three also contributes to slowing down nutrient runoff and trapping sediment. This zone can attract many beautiful species of birds, butterflies, and moths on to your landscape.There are many technical aspects to the design of a riparian buffer zone which depends on what the aquatic ecosystem needs. A few examples of these technical details include determining: the width of the buffer strip; what the land use is adjacent to your property; the slope of the land; soil conditions; current stream health; and, creation of corridors to connect habitat for wildlife. There are many programs to help both farmers and residential landowners design a riparian buffer project. Given the range of benefits a riparian buffer can provide, I think it’s probably pretty easy to find a riparian buffer project near you.
Putting research in the hands of those who use it to create and innovate leads to increased competitiveness, economic growth and job creation. That’s why the Government of Canada continues to support the country’s researchers whose discoveries inspire entrepreneurs and innovators in the agriculture, health and commercial sectors.The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, recently announced $6.7 million in federal funding for seven new projects under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) that will match researchers with companies to develop new gene-based technologies in health care, agriculture and environmental protection. An additional $14.3 million is being invested by provincial governments, businesses and other funding partners for a total of $21 million.By studying genetic sequences, researchers develop technologies or processes that will improve crop growth, find a better treatment for babies born with a rare disease called cystinosis, and better protect wildlife, among other innovations. Genomics involves the study of genes, other DNA sequences and associated biological information that makes every organism different.Minister Duncan made the announcement at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, one of the seven research institutions receiving GAPP funding. This world-class centre for horticulture science and innovation will partner with a team of University of Toronto researchers to create new varieties of vegetables that will be more resistant to diseases. Resilient vegetables will help increase how much Canadian farmers can grow during a season, giving them a competitive advantage in the billion-dollar agricultural industry.This is one example of how science leads to new opportunities and good quality jobs. This investment in these projects will help businesses grow while supporting a stronger middle class.“It all starts with science and our remarkable scientists. By investing in researchers, we are giving them the opportunity to work with each other and their counterparts in the business, health and agriculture sectors to find the ideas and innovations that power a stronger economy and a growing middle class. Congratulations to our successful recipients whose efforts will help us build a bolder, brighter future for all Canadians," said Duncan.
Iowa State University researchers are conducting experiments to determine what advantages may arise from integrating chickens into vegetable production systems. The researchers must balance a range of concerns, including environmental sustainability, costs and food and animal safety. But Ajay Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and a vegetable production specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, said finding ways to integrate vegetable and animal production may lead to greater efficiency and healthier soils.The experiments, currently in their second year, take place at the ISU Horticulture Research Station just north of Ames. The researchers are testing what happens when a flock of broiler chickens lives on a vegetable field for part of the year. The chickens forage on the plant matter left behind after the vegetables are harvested and fertilize the soil with manure. This integrated approach could reduce off-farm inputs and also provide producers with sustainable crop rotation options.The researchers are testing three different systems on a half acre of land at the research farm. The first system involves a vegetable crop – one of several varieties of lettuce or broccoli – early in the growing season, followed by the chickens, which are then followed by a cover crop later in the year. The second system involves the vegetable crop, followed by two months of a cover crop, with the chickens foraging on the land later in the year. The third system is vegetables followed by cover crops, with no chickens.The experiment involves roughly 40 chickens, which live in four mobile coops that the researchers move every day. Moving the coops around ensures the chickens have access to fresh forage and keeps their manure from concentrating any particular part of the field. An electric fence surrounds the field to keep out predators.Moriah Bilenky, a graduate assistant in horticulture, checks on the chickens every morning to make sure they have food and water. She also weighs them periodically to collect data on how efficiently they convert food into body mass. The researchers designed the trial to uphold animal health, and Bilenky said she keeps a detailed log on how foraging in the fields impacts the birds’ health and performance.Nair said the researchers are looking at several facets associated with sustainability. Nitrogen and phosphorous deposited in the soil from the chicken manure could alleviate some of the need for fertilizer application, while working cover crops into the system can prevent the loss of nutrients into waterways. Economics must also factor into the research, he said.“We might come up with results that really help the soil, but if the system is not economically stable, I doubt growers will be willing to adopt it because it has to work for their bottom line as well,” he said.The trials also adhere to food safety regulations. For instance, all vegetables are harvested before the chickens are introduced to the fields, ensuring none of the produce is contaminated. The researchers consulted food safety and animal science experts at Iowa State while designing their experiments, and the work undergoes regular IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) inspection and documentation, he said.The trials remain ongoing, so the researchers aren’t drawing any conclusions yet about the success of their integrated system. The project is currently supported through a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant. Nair said he’s seeking additional funding to investigate the animal health and integrated pest management aspects of this research.So why did the chicken cross the road? It’s too early to tell, but maybe so it could get into the lettuce and pepper fields.
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.”
Lynden-area vegetable grower Ken Forth will receive an honorary degree from the University of Guelph’s College of Business and Economics. Forth is being recognized for the profound impact he has had on the Canadian fruit and vegetable industry and on the lives of thousands of families across Mexico and the Caribbean over the course of his farming career.For 49 years, Forth has been directly involved with the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), and were it not for his work on labour issues on behalf of Canadian growers from coast to coast, Canadians would be hard-pressed to find fresh, locally grown produce on their store shelves. The program has also directly improved the standard of living of thousands of seasonal workers, allowing them to educate their children, and buy and operate their own farms and businesses in their home countries.“This is a tremendous and very unexpected honour,” says Forth. “This kind of work doesn’t happen alone – I’ve been fortunate to have the help and support of many great people over the years, from fellow growers to farm organization staff, and none of this would have been possible without them.”It’s through his involvement with many provincial and national organizations and committees that Forth represents the industry’s interests on everything from NAFTA and SAWP to minimum wage, labour regulations and unionization of agricultural workers.Forth has served on the board of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), the organization that administers SAWP, for more than 25 years, and assumed his current role as president more than a decade ago.He’s a past president of the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) and the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA), and is the long-serving chair of the labour and trade committees at both organizations. Forth also volunteers his time with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council, and is the chair of the Labour Issues Coordinating Committee that represents the interests of Ontario farm employers.“Our fruit and vegetable industry in Canada would not be what it is today without Ken’s tireless dedication to labour issues,” says OFVGA chair Jan VanderHout. “This work takes a lot of time on the road and away from farm and family and it’s almost always behind the scenes, but Ken has had an impact on every single grower in this country and we appreciate his service to our industry.”Forth was nominated for the honorary degree by University of Guelph associate professor Dr. Sara Mann, whose current research includes examining employment issues in the agricultural and rural sectors. He will formally receive his degree at a ceremony at the University of Guelph next spring.
Less than five per cent of family businesses make it to the fourth generation but the Davison family did just that.Davison Orchards has been growing apples since 1933. This year they celebrate 85 years and four generations of family farming in Vernon, B.C.Bob Davison is the eldest of the three generations currently working on the farm. His uncle Tom began the business after emigrating from England after the First World War in the hopes of a more prosperous future. The family realized their dream of owning their own orchard in the Okanagan in 1933. Bob began working in the orchard with his uncle in 1948. He was 17 at the time and still works at the family orchard today. | READ MORE
The Okanagan's Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is celebrating its commitment to renewable energy by declaring Tuesday, May 15, 2018 "Solar Day" at the winery.The winery will be hosting local media and guests, with a glass of Burrowing Owl's first wine release of 2018, the 2017 Pinot Gris. Follow the story at #SolarDay.Burrowing Owl has long been dedicated to sustainable winemaking, and it's leading the way once again with the installation of five large solar systems on its estate properties. The winery's investments into alternative energy over the past dozen years include the following: In 2006, the winery installed its first solar panels, producing the equivalent of 53,000 kWh annually in the form of hot water In 2016, the winery's staff house in Osoyoos became a "NET ZERO" building with addition of 116 solar panels A cellar expansion completed in 2017 with a roof blanketed by 70 solar panels. The electricity provided by the panels will offset approximately 12.9 tons of CO2 emissions per year A 2017 visitor parking structure designed to provide shade and rain protection, topped by 106 solar panels that will offset 27 tons of CO2 every year. 2017 - Our 45,000 sq. ft Oliver warehouse with a south-facing roof covered by 160 panels to capture solar energy, offsetting 30 tons of carbon annually and producing 60,000 kWh annually. That's enough energy to provide heat and air conditioning for this large building, giving it a carbon footprint of "NET ZERO".In addition, the winery has also installed eight new electric vehicle charging stations, which visitors and staff may use at no cost. For more information, visit: https://www.burrowingowlwine.ca/
Farmers across Ontario are welcoming the return of thousands of seasonal labourers who help the province’s fruit and vegetable industry thrive.Approximately 18,000 workers from Mexico and the Caribbean are expected to be placed at Ontario farms this growing season as a supplement to local labour under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). Approximately 1,450 farms will benefit from the program this year.The program was established in 1966 to respond to a severe shortage of domestic agricultural workers. It continues to serve the same role 52 years later, enabling Ontario farmers to stay in business.“Men and women from overseas have been helping Ontario farmers solve a critical shortage of agricultural workers for more than half a century,” says Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), which administers the program. “At the same time, they’ve helped lift themselves and their families out of a punishing cycle of poverty in their home countries.”SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, which means supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from partner countries only if farmers cannot find domestic workers willing to take the same jobs.Farmers who rely on the program to meet their labour needs do hire Canadians. The challenge is that not enough domestic workers — Canadians who may live in the rural areas where these farms are located — are interested in taking these positions, often because they are seasonal in nature.Recent labour market research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council cited SAWP as a key reason our horticultural industry is thriving.In Ontario, the program plays a crucial role in helping the industry generate $5.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 34,280 jobs.“If we want to continue having access to high-quality, fresh, local produce in Ontario, we need the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program to continue connecting farmers with the workers they need,” Forth says.The vast majority of men and women who come to Ontario through SAWP believe the benefits of the program far outweigh any challenges or drawbacks, such as being away from their families for part of the year on a temporary basis.Proof of this can be seen in the large number of workers who speak positively about the program and voluntarily return year after year — some of them to the same employers for decades. Approximately 85 per cent of the workers opt to return on repeat contracts in an average year.Seasonal workers can earn as much as 10 times or more working here than they could in their own countries, if they fortunate enough to find employment. This income allows the workers to improve the standard of living of their families, educate their children and buy and operate businesses and farms at home.Of the many different temporary worker programs in Canada, SAWP is the only one that offers 24-hour a day assistance to workers directly with people from their home countries. Each country participating in the program maintains a liaison service or consular office in Ontario to help look after the general welfare of agricultural workers and help them navigate any issues or complications they may face while working here.For more information about Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, visit: www.farmsontario.ca.
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.
Geneva, NY – The newest offering from Cornell University’s grape breeders is a fruit that’s big, bold and comes with a towering history. Those factors led the grape’s breeders to name the new variety Everest Seedless, a nod to the celebrated Nepalese mountain, said Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and grape breeder with Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY. “We were looking to develop very flavorful grapes with large berries and large clusters, and we’ve achieved that with Everest Seedless,” Reisch said. The new variety is a cold-tolerant, blue-coloured Concord-type, with berries that weigh up to 7 grams – roughly twice the size of the traditional Concord. It is also the first truly seedless Concord-type grape ever released. It’s intended as a table grape – meant primarily for eating fresh, rather than using for jams, juice or wine, as most American Concords are used. “Everest is one of the largest mountains in the world, and this is one very large grape,” Reisch said. “With its formidable ancestry and big flavour, we feel this variety can live up to its name.” The grape is tolerant of midwinter temperatures as low as 10 to 15 below zero Fahrenheit, making it suitable for most of the grape-growing regions in New York. It’s moderately resistant to downy mildew and powdery mildew, the most troublesome grape diseases in the Northeast. Insects don’t seem to bother these grapes, according to Reisch, who said the variety has thrived in research vineyards where insecticides are not applied, but insects could be a problem at other locations. Because the grapes are relatively easy to grow and produce large, flavourful, seedless berries, Reisch predicts they will become popular with home gardeners as well as professional growers. Everest Seedless is being exclusively licensed in the U.S. to Double A Vineyards of Fredonia, NY, for 10 years, and vines can be purchased from them starting this fall.
A group of Canadian apple researchers, growers and marketers have joined forces to give one of Canada’s oldest and most famous fruit crops some new crunch in the marketplace.Members of the National Apple Breeding Consortium say advances in the science of apple breeding and more efficient orchard designs are making it possible to bring new varieties more quickly to market to capitalize on consumer interest in apples with unique tastes and textures, while giving growers varieties that are more resistant to disease and insects.Premium varieties like Gala, Honeycrisp and Ambrosia and high-density orchards helped the Canadian apple industry post its first increase in acreage in decades in 2016.Taking a page from wine grapes, the consortium believes more regions of Canada could become renowned for their own unique apple varieties."It’s not necessarily about creating a new apple that can be grown across the country. It’s about finding that variety and that local growing environment that together produce a quality that you won’t find anywhere else," says Joyce Boye, science director for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research centres in Agassiz and Summerland in British Columbia.The consortium was created late last year to streamline apple development in Canada and boost returns to the industry and increase consumer satisfaction."The consortium allows key players in Canadian apple breeding to work more closely together and that’s a win-win for all involved," says Brian Gilroy, president of the Canadian Horticultural Council and an apple grower himself.Genome Atlantic, Genome BC and Ontario Genomics also helped drive the creation of the consortium. The associations encourage the combination of biology, genetics and computer science to create economic opportunities in the resource and health sectors."Over the last three years, Genome Atlantic has been working hard with all the stakeholders to develop this consortium, and we are very pleased that it is now in place," says Richard Donald, a business development associate with Genome Atlantic. "With everyone pulling together, research will be shared across Canada, accelerating the development of new apple varieties suited to different regions of the country."In the past, it took up to 25 years to develop a new apple variety and orchards were dominated by large trees that were difficult to pick. Today, gene sequencing is allowing apple breeders to find and select the traits they want much more quickly.At the same time, growers are increasingly turning to high-density orchards featuring dwarf trees that are much easier to harvest.Consortium members include Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dalhousie University, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Summerland Varieties Corporation, Réseau d’essais de cultivars et porte-greffes de pommiers du Quebec, and the Canadian Horticultural Council. Also represented are a number of major grower associations, including the Ontario Apple Growers Association, the BC Fruit Growers Association, Les Producteurs de pommes du Quebec and Scotian Gold Cooperative Ltd.
Publication 360, Fruit Crop Protection Guide 2018-2019 is now available as a downloadable pdf file, through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website at the following links: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/pub360/p360toc.htm http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/french/crops/pub360/p360toc.htm  Individual chapters will be made available on the OMAFRA website soon. There will only be a limited number of copies of the print version of Publication 360 available through Service Ontario.
Move over Red Delicious – there’s a new top apple in town. The U.S. Apple Association [US Apple] recently announced that after 50-plus years of being the number one produced apple in the United States, the Red Delicious has been surpassed by Gala. “The rise in production of newer varieties of apples aimed at the fresh consumption market has caused demand for Red Delicious to decline,” said Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs with US Apple, during the association’s 2018 outlook conference.The top five apple varieties in 2018 – based on forecasted production numbers – are Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Honeycrisp. Golden Delicious is expected to drop out of the top five to sixth place in production numbers. ”However, Red Delicious is important in the export market, where it makes up roughly half of our apple exports,” Seetin added. The top five export markets for U.S. apples include Mexico, India, Canada, Taiwan and Vietnam. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast the 2018 U.S. crop at 272.7 million bushels, making it the fourth largest recorded crop. At $3.55 billion, farm gate value of the U.S. 2017 crop was up three per cent over 2016 and set a new record. US Apple’s 2018 Outlook conference is currently underway in Chicago, IL.
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.
Late blight has been confirmed on potatoes near Alliston, Ont.
Cavendish Farms recently announced that they will be focusing on the frozen potato processing business on Prince Edward Island due to the limited availability of raw product.
Nematodes are pests that you need to keep an eye on in order to ensure the productivity of market garden crops. Several species are considered parasites of fruits and vegetables. Various types of nematicides have been used in the past to eliminate and/or control the spread of nematodes. Since the 1970s, these nematicides have been phased out of commercial use. The last fumigant nematicide was withdrawn over the last five years. Over time, it became apparent that they were not safe for users or for the environment.

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