Production

November 30, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – The Canada Organic Trade Association recently released its second comprehensive analysis of Canada’s organic market – The Canadian Organic Market: Trends and Opportunities 2017. This in-depth publication provides the most up-to-date overview of the Canadian organic market, combining consumer research with sales and trade data to provide valuable insight into market size, growth trends and Canadian consumer perceptions. “Canada’s organic sector remains on its upward trajectory, gaining new market share as consumers across Canada ate and used more organic products than ever before,” said Tia Loftsgard, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. “It is an exciting time to be a part of a sector that shows such promise to bring positive economic, social and environmental change to Canada.” According to the report: Canada’s total organic market (including food and non-food items) is estimated at $5.4 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2012. The organic food and beverage market is estimated at $4.4 billion, up from $2.8 billion in 2012. The compound annual growth rate of the total organic market is estimated at 8.7 per cent between 2012 and 2017. Over the same time period, the growth rate for the organic food and beverage market is at an estimated 8.4 per cent. As the market has matured, growth rates have slowed but organics continues to capture a greater market share. Between 2012 and 2017, the market share of organic food and beverages sold through mainstream retailers has grown from 1.7 per cent to 2.6 per cent. Ontario has the largest organic market, yet British Columbia continues to have higher organic sales per capita. Two-thirds of Canadian grocery shoppers are purchasing organics weekly. Albertan’s are most likely to be organic purchasers – 74 per cent are buying organics weekly. Currently, Canada tracks 65 organic imports and 17 organic exports – a subset of total organic trade. Tracked Canadian organic imports were valued at $637 million in 2016. Tracked exports are expected to reach $607 million by the end of 2017. The report combines sales data from the Nielsen Company, consumer data from Ipsos polls, and organic trade data from Statistics Canada. The report is rounded out with secondary research and analysis carried out by the Canada Organic Trade Association, with additional insight and analysis from leading organic experts. A copy of the report is available for purchase from COTA.    
November 24, 2017, Toronto, Ont – The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission recently announced the establishment of a new Berry Growers of Ontario (BGO) marketing board under Ontario Regulation 383/17 (Berries - Plan) of the Farm Products Marketing Act. The new organization will represent Ontario blueberry, raspberry and strawberry growers. Under the regulation, the commission was required to appoint members to serve on BGO's first board of directors. The appointed directors include:Blueberry Growers  Kerry CopestakeBrambleberry FarmWooler, ON  Steve KustermansKustermans Berry FarmsMt. Brydges, ONDusty ZamecnikEZ Grow FarmsLangton, ON   Strawberry Growers Kevin HoweG & M Howe & Sons Ltd.Aylmer, ON Graham ShawTaylor Strawberry FarmWindermere, ON Matt TigchelaarTigchelaar Berry FarmJordan, ON  Raspberry Growers Alex McKayWillowtree FarmPort Perry, ON Tom HeemanHeeman Strawberry FarmThames Centre, ON Brian RijkeDentz Orchards & Berry FarmIroquois, ON Member terms began on November 15, 2017, and will end upon the first meeting of a newly elected board in 2018. In 2018, all directors will be elected by producer members. While Ontario Regulation 383/17 establishes BGO and defines its governance framework, Ontario Regulation 428/17: Berries - Marketing delegates BGO powers to regulate the production and marketing of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in Ontario. The proposed marketing regulation would give BGO the powers to license berry growers; set and collect licence fees; require berry growers to provide information and establish an industry advisory committee.
If I were giving out awards to businesses that offer an exceptional tourism experience, I would present one to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland.
October 26, 2017, Gainesville, FL – Consumers are confused between foods labeled as “organic” and “non-genetically modified,” according to a new study led by a University of Florida professor. In fact, researchers found that some consumers view the two labels as synonymous. When U.S. Congress approved the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard in June 2016, lawmakers allowed companies two years – until June 2018 – to label their genetically modified (GM) food by text, symbol or an electronic digital link such as a QR code. The QR code is a machine-readable optical label that displays information when scanned. Besides QR codes, companies can label GM foods by adding words like: “contains genetically modified ingredients” in plain text on the packages, said Brandon McFadden, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics, and lead author of the study. McFadden and Purdue University agricultural economics professor Jayson Lusk conducted their research to find the best ways to communicate whether a food has GM ingredients. This research has implications for which foods consumers will buy, McFadden said. To gauge consumers’ willingness to pay for food labeled as GM vs. non-GM, researchers conducted a national survey of 1,132 respondents. Specifically, researchers wanted to know how much consumers were willing to spend on food labeled as “USDA Organic” vs. that labeled “Non-GMO Project Verified.” Genetically modified material is not allowed in food labeled “USDA Organic,” while “Non-GMO Project” means the food has no more than 0.9 per cent GM characteristics, according to the study. Researchers measured respondents’ willingness to pay for a box of 12 granola bars and a pound of apples. Granola bars represent a manufactured food commonly differentiated by its absence of GM material, while apples are a fresh fruit that requires companies to tell if they contain GM material, the study said. In this study, when consumers looked at packages of granola bars labeled “non-GMO Project,” they were willing to spend 35 cents more than for the boxes that had text that read, “contains genetically engineered ingredients.” With the “USDA Organic” label, consumers were willing to pay 9 cents more. With apples, respondents were willing to pay 35 cents more for those labeled “non-GMO Project” and 40 cents more for those labeled “USDA Organic.” Participants’ responses led McFadden to conclude that consumers don’t distinguish definitions of the two food labels. “For example, it’s possible that a product labeled, ‘Non-GMO Project Verified’ more clearly communicates the absence of GM ingredients than a product labeled ‘USDA Organic,’” said McFadden. In addition to willingness to pay for GM- and non-GM foods, researchers wanted to know how QR codes impact choices for foods labeled as containing GM ingredients. They also wanted to know how much consumers were willing to pay for food labeled as GM if that information came from a Quick Response – or QR – code. Study results showed consumers are willing to pay more for genetically modified food if the information is provided by a QR code. “This finding indicates that many of the study respondents did not scan the QR code,” McFadden said.That’s because if all respondents scanned the QR code, there would not be a significant difference in their willingness to pay, he said. Since there is a significant difference, one can assume that many respondents did not scan the QR code, McFadden said. “However, it is important to remember that this study is really a snapshot, and it is possible that over time, consumers will become more familiar with QR codes and be more likely to scan them,” he said. The new study is published in the journal Applied Economics: Perspectives and Policy.
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_text49293 ); 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.
December 12, 2017, State College, PA – Unmanned aircraft (UA) – commonly called drones – are a new technology that can quickly collect, quantify, and record a variety of important data about orchards that many growers inherently measure by eye. Simple examples include location of nonproductive trees, quantity of blossoms in the spring, stress on trees in the summer, and crop load in the fall. To this end, the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania (SHAP) is supporting an initiative by Joe Sommer and Rob Crassweller at Penn State University to help growers use UA for orchard management. While single images and/or videos captured during manually controlled flight can be useful, this project focused on flying autonomous missions to capture hundreds of images that can be stitched together into a much larger orthomosaic map of a block of trees or even a small orchard. For example, a DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter ($1,500) can inspect 60 acres over 15 minutes flight time at 200 feet above ground level (AGL) and reconstruct a large orthomosaic map of an orchard with one-inch per pixel resolution. Efforts during the first year developed a user manual for mission planning and orthomosaic stitching of images as well as geo-referencing (locating latitude-longitude) for individual trees. Growers who are interested in learning more details can visit Unmanned Aircraft for Agricultural Applications or send an email to
December 8, 2017, Mississauga, Ont – Bee Vectoring Technologies recently announced successful trial results in blueberries. The trial was conducted near Parrsborough, NS, in low bush blueberries with the Wild Blueberry Research Program at Dalhousie University. The trial utilized BVT's newly developed honeybee system, consisting of a honeybee hive outfitted with dispenser technology through which BVT's proprietary plant beneficial microbe, BVT-CR7, can be delivered to crops. The trial was designed to determine the effectiveness of the BVT technology in controlling Botrytis blight (gray mold) and Monilinia blight (mummy berry), two common and devastating diseases affecting blueberry crops across North America, compared to untreated control and current chemicals standards. The trial also examined increases in productivity of the crop measured by marketable yield. "Our yields went up quite substantially when we used the BVT system, whether alone or in combination with chemical fungicides, but they didn't go up where we used the fungicide alone," said Dr. David Percival, blueberry research program director and professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. "I was really surprised by the first results. I went back and double-checked the raw yield data, then the spreadsheet to make sure the statistical program was correct. The results indicate the potential for floral blight disease control and increased berry yields with the use of BVT technology. Future work will allow us to fine tune the use recommendations." “These are excellent results once again for the company and firmly establishes another major market opportunity,” said Ashish Malik, CEO of BVT. “Notably, this was the first time we tested our honeybee delivery system in a replicated R&D study, and we got great results. Having a proven system that works with honey bees alongside our first system designed to work with commercial bumble bee hives allows us to reach a far wider market and gives us options to deliver solutions for growers based on the specific needs for their crops." Blueberries are a high-value crop, fetching as much as US $18,000 in revenue per acre in certain regions. There are almost 300,000 acres of blueberries cultivated in the US and Canada with total farm gate value of US $ 1.1 billion. Blueberry production in North America represents 54 per cent of the worldwide cultivation of the crop with key growing regions including the Atlantic provinces and British Columbia in Canada, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Michigan, California, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Florida in the U.S.
December 5, 2017, Kimberly, ID — A University of Idaho researcher says a water-efficient irrigation method he helped devise was effective in potatoes during 2017 trials and is poised for significant expansion in the coming season. UI Extension irrigation specialist Howard Neibling and his Washington State University counterpart, Troy Peters, worked in conjunction with Bonneville Power to develop the first pivot using low-elevation sprinkler application in 2013. LESA sprays water in a flat pattern from low-pressure nozzles dangling about a foot above the ground — low enough to pass beneath the crop canopy and eliminate drift without excessive runoff. READ MORE
November 27, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Collaboration between vegetable growers, a farm organization, and a grower co-operative is leading to improved plant health and more efficient vegetable production in the Holland Marsh. The Bradford Co-op, the Fresh Vegetable Growers of Ontario and individual vegetable growers in the Holland Marsh are collaborating on a project with the University of Guelph to test innovative technologies that will make their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs for key crops like onions and carrots more efficient and cost effective. “We work together with industry partners and growers to fund and collaborate on our IPM programs in the Marsh,” explains Matt Sheppard, Bradford Co-op general manager. “There is tremendous value in early detection and this project is helping us identify issues in real time so we can provide the correct advice and solutions to growers.” Weekly photos are taken of the vegetable fields in the marsh using an octocopter drone. Lead researcher Mary Ruth McDonald and her team at the University of Guelph’s Muck Crops Research Station run the IPM program and use the images for early detection of diseases and insects so growers can take appropriate measures to protect their crop and prevent or minimize damage. Downy mildew, which causes lower yields and decreased storability, is the most damaging disease for onions in the area; Stemphylium leaf blight is also a significant concern. “The technology we are able to access through this project makes our crop scouting program more effective and lets growers be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to crop protection,” explains Sheppard. “It’s very quick for a grower to have a problem area identified early and then decide how to treat it correctly to keep the crop healthy.” Using information generated from the aerial images to prevent or minimize problems means less and more targeted use of crop protection materials, resulting in immediate savings of $5,000 to $50,000 per grower depending on the crop and the size of the farm. More importantly, though, use of the technology ultimately ensures growers can keep supplying the market with quality produce and consumers have access to locally grown vegetables. The marsh’s unique soils mean growers in the area have to work together to find solutions for their crop challenges, says Sheppard, adding that funding from Growing Forward 2 has been instrumental in bringing the collaboration together. “Muck soil like ours doesn’t exist in other areas so we have to be self-sufficient and proactive to find solutions,” he says. “The technology is expensive so it’s something we wouldn’t be able to initiate on our own, but the investment with GF2 has allowed us to access the funds to make it happen.”
Delta, BC, November 20, 2017 – Farmers know the importance of keeping the land, water and air healthy to sustain their farms from one generation to the next. They also know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. The federal government recently announced a $1.8 million investment with the University of British Columbia to determine carbon sequestration and GHG emissions, and develop beneficial management practices (BMPs) for increasing the efficiency of fertilizer use in blueberry, potato and forage crops. “This project will provide new science-based knowledge on net GHG emissions by accurately measuring GHG emissions and developing mitigation technologies for blueberry, potato and forage crops in the Lower Fraser Valley,” said Dr. Rickey Yada, dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. “The research team will use state-of-the-art instrumentation and automated measurement techniques to quantify annual GHG emissions. While the specific research objectives are targeted to fill regionally identified gaps in knowledge, they will be applicable more broadly to similar agricultural production systems across Canada and Global Research Alliance member countries.” This project with the University of British Columbia is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.
November 17, 2017, Charleston, SC – Broccoli is becoming more popular with consumers, providing plenty of nutrients in the diet. But it isn’t easy getting this cool-weather vegetable to kitchen tables. Broccoli producers face many factors that impede getting their crop to market – including unexpected temperature fluctuations and excessive heat. Heat stress while broccoli’s florets are developing can reduce crop yield and quality. Broccoli has been grown in Europe for centuries, but it has only been grown in North America since the late 1800s, when it was probably introduced by Italian immigrants. Although California is the major producing state, broccoli is grown in nearly every other state, especially along the eastern seaboard. The likelihood of high-temperature stress occurring in a given location or season is the main factor limiting where and when the crop can be grown. Breeding heat-tolerant broccoli cultivars could extend the growing season, expand production areas, and increase resilience to fluctuating temperatures, but efforts to do this have been limited by a lack of knowledge about the genetics of heat tolerance. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist Mark Farnham and his team at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, are filling in those knowledge gaps. They have developed and characterized genetic sources of heat tolerance in broccoli. These results were published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics in March 2017. The team evaluated a group of broccoli plants that Farnham developed for the ability to tolerate high-temperature stress during summer. “We identified genetic markers associated with resistance to heat damage in these plants,” says Farnham. “An important finding of this work is that the resistance trait is a complex trait controlled by many genes, which makes it a bit harder to work with. However, these markers are of great interest to public and private broccoli breeders, who can use some additional tools in their work to accelerate the development of heat-tolerant broccoli cultivars.” To determine how well Farnham’s heat-tolerant broccoli will do in different stress environments, he is working with scientists at land-grant universities on the eastern seaboard that are growing his broccoli in warm-temperature field trials. Once they verify that his broccoli will do well under adverse conditions in different locations, it will be made available for research purposes or for use by commercial seed companies and breeders. The heat-tolerant broccoli could help expand future growing possibilities significantly, helping to meet the demand for the nutritious vegetable.
November 21, 2017, Windsor, Ont – Product traceability is critical for food processors, and an Essex County company specializing in agricultural automation has been helping them sustainably improve for 27 years. “Automation was almost non-existent in agriculture 30 years ago, but there was obviously a need for it,” says Joe Sleiman, founder and president of Ag-Tronic Control Systems, an automation technology company based near Windsor. “We started by looking at ways to help local produce growers improve efficiency, and do so in a more sustainable way. Now we have clients throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and we’re in the process of expanding to South America, Europe and Australia,” he says. Together with his wife Samia, Sleiman started Ag-Tronic Control Systems in 1991 to market and improve his own automation equipment. At the time, that included a height control system for tomato harvesters, tractor guidance equipment, and a plant watering system. With these accomplishments, Sleiman was asked by local greenhouse growers to design a better cucumber grading system, and improve a labelling system for tray packed tomatoes. The market success of those tomatoes, though, created a new challenge: the mislabelling of produce once tomatoes were removed and repackaged. This caused losses at the retail level, prompting the same growers to request a labelling system that could apply stickers directly to the tomato body instead of the packing box. With the success of his new direct-label system, Sleiman created a sub-company called Accu-Label Inc. in 2001. Under the Accu-Label brand, he developed both an automated label machine and biodegradable, paper stickers. Combined with a recyclable liner – the parchment on which the stickers sit – he started marketing his product as both cost-saving and more sustainable than those using plastic stickers. “Our goal was to provide better performance with more sustainably,” he says. “Plastic stickers are already used, but no one wants to eat that. People also hate that they can’t be recycled.” A number of additional technologies were also created, including a handheld unit for smaller packers, and a larger portable machine that lets food retailers put their own brand onto a product wherever and whenever they require. A more user-friendly labelling machine was unveiled in 2008 that negated potential problems associated with the labeller’s liner removal system. “We developed a system to print labels on-the-go, including bar and trace codes,” says Sleiman. “That means marketers can get both traceability and their own brand right on the produce in a safe, efficient way.” More recently, Sleiman launched a camera attachment that automatically monitors labels after printing. This, he says, helps ensure each sticker is printed properly, and further improves product traceability. “We’re providing this for free to everyone who has our Print & Apply brand label machines,” he says. “It’s part of our commitment to ensure our customers continue to have the latest and best fruit labeling technology.”
For the last 32 years, a typical day running Whittamore’s Farm in Markham during the busy planting and tourism season has started at 5:30 a.m. – at the latest. At the agri-tainment powerhouse farm business, Mike Whittamore has owned and operated the farm’s Pick-Your-Own fruit and vegetable business, and his brother, Frank, and Frank’s wife Suzanne have owned and operated the onsite Farm Shop (freshly-picked produce, baked goods and preserves) as well as the Fun Farm Yard and Pumpkinland, both replete with farm-themed activities.
It’s often been said that a grape grower’s heart and soul is in the vineyard. Even though Ontario’s new grape king, Doug Whitty, may be the latest of three kings to either own or have strong ties to one winery, he believes that future royalty will be stand-alone growers, as in the past.
When Tahir Raza came to Canada from Pakistan in 1994, he did not expect to be an owner of an award-winning orchard.
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.
November 1, 2017, Simcoe, Ont – Members of the Ontario South Coast Wineries and Growers Association are finishing a good second consecutive harvest that will let them draw even more distance away from disastrous seasons a few years ago. "The 2016 growing season brought a good quality harvest and this year will be almost as good," said Mike McArthur, co-owner of Burning Kiln Winery on Front Road just outside St. Williams, who earlier this year finished an eight-year stint as the association's founding chairman. READ MORE
October 27, 2017, Coldbrook, NS – Federal government representatives were at Scotian Gold’s Coldbrook facility recently to announce an investment of up to $1.75 million in support of the cooperative’s new state-of- the-art apple packing facility. The investment enabled Scotian Gold to expand its facility and to purchase and install two new-to-Atlantic high efficiency production lines. With the facility expansion and new technology, Scotian Gold expects to grow its sales and demand of premium, Nova Scotia-grown apples, both in Canada and in the Unites States. "The new facility is an example of Scotian Gold's willingness to invest in the future of our growers, our employees and the apple industry,” said David Parrish, president and CEO of Scotian Gold Cooperative Ltd. “Over the next number of years, the apple volume will increase for varieties such as Honeycrisp, Ambrosia and SweeTango. This facility will have the capability to supply Scotian Gold's expanding markets in a timely and efficient manner." Scotian Gold Cooperative is the largest apple packing and storage operation in Eastern Canada.
October 25, 2017, Kingsville, Ont – Mucci Farms recently announced the completion of the second phase of its 36 acre strawberry expansion. The company also announced that Phase Three construction is underway with production to begin in Fall 2018. The full project will be equivalent to more than 1.5 million square feet of high-tech glass exclusively growing strawberries, the largest in North America. "Our strawberry program is being met with a great deal of enthusiasm from current and potential retail partners because of our emphasis on premium flavour and consistent supply," explained Danny Mucci, vice president of Mucci Farms. Since partnering with Dutch growers Ton Bastiaansen and Joost van Oers in January 2016, Mucci Farms has seen accelerated growth and a greater demand for greenhouse-grown strawberries. "Overwhelming, is the best way I can describe how our Smuccies are being received,” said Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing. “Super sweet, clean, on the shelf within 24 hours of harvest and grown in an environment that is unaffected by inclement weather. Even better, they are grown locally in Ontario so that consumers can enjoy summer fresh strawberries during the holiday season." Phase Three of the expansion will include state-of-the-art lit culture technology, allowing Mucci Farms to offer strawberries during the winter months. A technology they are well experienced with, Mucci Farms also owns more than 200 acres of greenhouses, 30 of which are currently growing lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers year-round. "As with all of our new greenhouses, the new 24 acres of strawberries will also include the use of diffused glass which reduces stress on the plants by providing even sunlight," said Bert Mucci, CEO at Mucci Farms. "We will continue to use high-pressure fogging systems to cool down the greenhouse in the hotter months and also install the swing gutter system which allow for the amount of maximum plants per square meter."
October 23, 2017, Guelph Ont – Ontario’s cider industry is working on new ways to quench the growing thirst for locally-grown hard cider, from the ground up. In 2011, the Ontario Craft Cider Association (OCCA) formed with a mandate to develop and maintain a world-class cider industry in Ontario using local fruit and craft methods. It was a lofty goal, considering none of the cider apple varieties were readily available to Ontario growers. But with hard cider leading the growth category at LCBO stores, the group saw an opportunity to grow the seven per cent market share Ontario cider currently has of this segment. And in the process, the effort would support locally-grown cider to strengthen this made-in-Ontario industry. “Ontario growers have been producing local cider for years using fresh apple varieties and they make a good cider,” says Tom Wilson, owner/operator of Spirit Tree Estate Cidery in Caledon and OCCA chair. “But we know that European varieties grown specifically for the cider market contain a much better flavour profile and tannin content to make high-quality hard cider.” One of OCCA’s first projects involved grassroots research to evaluate European cider apple cultivars under Ontario’s growing conditions to understand the agronomics of growing the varieties and evaluating the attributes of the resulting juice for cider quality. “Our group is part of a three-phase project to build a bigger cider industry in Ontario,” says Wilson, who is a third-generation Ontario apple grower. “There is very limited information available for our members on how European cider varieties will perform in Ontario. We really need science-based information to help growers make informed choices about using cider apple cultivars that will create the type of cider the market is craving.” The first phase of the project was to source the genetic material to grow some of the European cider apple cultivars. The second phase, supported in part by Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding accessed through the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC) is where the grassroots, field research took place. Five orchards around the province were chosen to plant 29 new cider apple cultivars to gather local performance data on how the trees grow and the attributes of the resulting juice. While OCCA is learning the finer points of growing European cider cultivars, they also commissioned an economic impact study of the Ontario industry. Building a stronger cider industry in Ontario will return greater economic activity for the 25 craft cider producers, and in the process deliver many spin-off contributions to the broader community. “The latest economic impact study we commissioned in late 2016 identified a number of other benefits for our growing sector, including tourism, rural development, attracting new businesses, community events and contributing to employment and training opportunities in the areas where our members operate,” says Wilson. OCCA’s commissioned report provides encouraging statistics about the contributions of the Ontario industry to the economy, and the results confirm a growing opportunity for Ontario growers and cider lovers. Ontario-grown cider contains all the elements of a great agri-food success. Consumers are ready and eager to support local, Ontario’s cider growers are making great strides with new cider apple varieties and hard cider is a beverage category that continues to exceed growth targets year after year.
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.
December 11, 2017, Charlottetown, PEI – P.E.I. has experienced a lower potato crop yield than usual this year and has been forced to ship in spuds from other areas of the country to make up for it.​ The province remains Canada's heaviest hitter in terms of potato production, producing roughly 25 per cent of the country's annual yield. However, dry weather conditions over the summer reduced the Island crop yield by about eight per cent this year — the largest drop among major growers in Canada. READ MORE
October 26, 2017, Portage la Prairie, Man – Many Manitoba potato growers faced nail-biting times this autumn as they struggled to get the crop off. In the end, however, yields are expected to be similar to last year. Dave Sawatzky, manager of Keystone Potato Producers Association, said he predicts yields will roughly be on par or slightly better than 2016’s harvest, when Manitoba potato growers brought in 348 hundredweight per acre on average. READ MORE
October 17, 2017, Charlottetown, PEI – Another load of Island potatoes is on its way south to help with hurricane relief, after the P.E.I. potato industry made a donation of spuds to Florida last month. This time, the spuds are destined for Puerto Rico. A tractor-trailer load left P.E.I. Monday night, headed for a distribution centre in Georgia. From there, the spuds will be loaded onto a ship bound for Puerto Rico. 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.

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