Profiles
As producers across Canada continue to struggle with finding and keeping skilled labour, three innovative Canadians have partnered up to explore a highly sought-after solution – Robotics.
Published in Research
During the month of October, as part of its Sakata Gives Corporate Giving Program, Sakata Seed America, a world leader in breeding and producing vegetable and flower seed, participated in two walks, including a special Sakata co-ordinated campus walk, to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the American Heart Association.
Published in News
A recent survey from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity reveals that most Canadians are disconnected from the people who grow their food and how it is grown. Perceptions of farming are often outdated, inaccurate and cliched. In fact, 93 per cent of Canadians say they know little-to-nothing about farming.
Published in Profiles
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.
Published in Profiles
Courchesne Larose, one of the country’s leading distributors of fresh fruits and vegetables, is planning big things to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding. Over the next 100 days, a host of activities will be held to mark the occasion in a very special way.

Members of the public will be invited to play a part in the festivities, as the centennial celebrations culminate with a huge event for the whole family on Oct. 5, at Montréal’s Olympic Stadium, where Courchesne Larose and its partners will attempt to beat the Guinness World Record for the largest fruit salad ever assembled.

100 days of festivities
The Courchesne Larose centennial celebrations kicked off on Sept. 8 at a major event bringing together hundreds of the company’s employees—the team that is helping to build the success stories of the next 100 years—along with their families.

On Oct. 17, a tribute will be paid to the late Louis-Charles Routhier, former owner of Courchesne Larose, whose outstanding commitment to society will be recognized by the community organization Je Passe Partout, which is working to reduce the school dropout rate in the borough of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

The idea of giving back to the community, which is a core company value, will feature prominently in these 100 days of celebrations.

On Nov. 5, Courchesne Larose will proudly act as official fruit and vegetable supplier and a major partner of La Grande Tablée, a benefit evening that will see a gourmet meal served to some 700 guests in both Montréal and Québec City, with profits supporting development of La Tablée des Chefs’ cooking education programs for young people.

Next, for the Grande Guignolée des médias on Dec. 6, the extended Courchesne Larose family will join the collective movement to gather food items to help thousands of needy families over the Holidays.

The 100 days of celebrations will wrap up on Dec. 16 with the company’s traditional Holiday party, at which a new employee-development initiative will be launched.

“A century of success doesn’t happen by itself, so it was important for us that these celebrations include all those whose unfailing support and co-operation have played a role in our accomplishments during that time: the members of our outstanding team, along with our loyal partners,” explains Alain Routhier, president, Courchesne Larose.

Besides the activities planned for employees and partners who help ensure the company’s success, the true high point of the celebrations promises to be reached at a special event on Oct. 5, at which the Courchesne Larose team, in collaboration with La Tablée des Chefs, First Fridays, Moisson Montréal, and Loop Juice will try to set an unusual Guinness World Record.

The “Grande Coupe:” 20,000 pounds of fruit for a good cause
Because it’s not every day that a company celebrates 100 years, Courchesne Larose plans to make history with a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest fruit salad ever assembled.

On Oct. 5, members of the public are invited to the Esplanade Sun Life Financial outside Olympic Stadium for the “Grande Coupe”, a one-of-a-kind festive family event, where an enormous fruit salad weighing more than 20,000 pounds will be concocted in an attempt to beat the previous record set in Vienna, Austria, in 2014. The event will be held as part of First Fridays, the largest gathering of food trucks in Canada.

The initiative is also for a good cause: the giant fruit salad will be divided up and distributed to community groups serving Montréal’s neediest citizens, via the Moisson Montréal network and the Tablée des Chefs food recovery program.

A family affair
The history of Courchesne Larose is inseparable from that of the Routhier family: going back to the company’s early years with Raoul Routhier at its helm, family members have contributed significantly to its growth.

Courchesne Larose’s impressive development continued under the leadership of Louis-Charles Routhier, and it now distributes fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to every corner of Québec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

“It’s truly impressive looking back at where this great story began, with a small business selling apples and hay in the east end of Montréal, and seeing how we’ve grown into one of the largest fruit and vegetable distributors in the country,” adds Routhier. “If they were still with us, our father and grandfather would have good reason to be proud!”

A century later, the Courchesne Larose Group employs more than 500 people. The company’s third generation of leaders is now well established, and it is grooming the next generation to take over one day in the future.

“Many wonderful projects await Courchesne Larose over the medium and longer term,” the Routhier brothers add, concluding: “And to guide our company in its second century, we’ll be looking to the fourth generation of the Routhier family, who will be called on to assume greater responsibilities in the years to come. We’re not ready to pass the torch just yet, but we’re already paving the way, to make sure Courchesne Larose continues to write success stories for at least 100 more years!”

About Courchesne Larose
A major player in the Canadian fruit and vegetable industry for more than 100 years, Courchesne Larose Ltd. is a family owned business and the flagship of Courchesne Larose Group.

Its primary mission is to give its providers the biggest showcase and the finest possible distribution network for their fruits and vegetables in Eastern Canada, and allow its customers to enjoy diversified, quality products year-round. Courchesne Larose’s suppliers are based all over the world, while its customers are located right across Canada as well as on the U.S. East Coast.
Published in Companies
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.”
Published in Profiles
There are now seven generations of farmers in Delta, B.C. behind (and in front of) Pacific Potato Corp., and while the potato was always a dietary staple, it wasn’t until recent generations that it became this family’s mainstay.
Published in Production
In addition to the bronze medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards, held in London, for the 2011 Brut Réserve won earlier this year, Blomidon Estate Winery has received two Bronze Medals at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada for their 2014 Blanc de Noirs and 2010 Blanc de Blancs, and also a 2018 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nova Scotia Wines for the 2010 Blanc de Blancs.

“Receiving these awards locally, from across the country, and also internationally is a great testament to our winery team and wine program,” says winemaker, Simon Rafuse. “It’s important for us as a benchmark, and it’s very gratifying to be rewarded for the hard work we try to do, placing Nova Scotia on the world wine map.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nova Scotia Wines was established in 2014 to honour the outstanding achievements of Nova Scotia’s flourishing wine industry. That inaugural year Blomidon Estate Winery was bestowed the very same award for their sparkling 2010 Cuvée L’Acadie.

The National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) is held annually as a showcase of the best wines from across the country. In 2018, over 1,850 wines from 257 wineries were entered into the NWAC, making this the largest and most comprehensive wine competition in Canadian history. In 2015 and 2016 Blomidon Estate Winery received Gold Medals for two of their sparkling wines, as well as two silvers and one bronze medal in 2017.

The Decanter World Wine Awards is the world’s largest and most influential wine competition annually held in London. This year 16,903 wines from around the world were tasted, judged by top wine experts from around the globe. In 2017 Blomidon Estate Winery received two silver medals along with a bronze for their wines.
Published in Companies
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.
Published in Profiles
The story of how Ontario’s first and only wild blueberry farm and winery came about perhaps started when a large parcel of land near Wawa was deforested some years ago. The 600 acres of ancient Lake Superior bottom – completely stone-free and extremely flat with a sand/silt soil type – quickly filled in with wild blueberries bushes.
Published in Fruit
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.
Published in Marketing
FMC is pleased to announce that Darren Dillenbeck has joined the company as Canada country manager.

Dillenbeck will lead the Canadian organization and report directly to Amy O'Shea, FMC vice president and business director for Agricultural Solutions, North America.

O'Shea expects that Dillenbeck's comprehensive marketing and sales experience will be a major asset, as FMC enters a new chapter in the Canadian marketplace with a wide-ranging product portfolio strengthened by the acquisition of select crop protection assets from DuPont in 2017.

"Darren is joining FMC at a very exciting time," says O'Shea. "His key responsibilities include exploring the unique market opportunities our broader portfolio affords us and working in collaboration with the Canadian team to grow and evolve our market presence and channel partner strategy."

Dillenbeck notes that FMC will be a "pure-play" agriculture company focused solely on bringing unique crop protection options and value to Canadian farmers.

"We want to build a business platform that makes it easier for our customers to work with us," he says. "With world class research and development, in addition to a strong team, I believe that FMC is well-poised to deliver local solutions that serve our customers' needs."

Dillenbeck brings more than 20 years of agriculture industry experience to FMC, having held various commercial leadership roles with Dow AgroSciences. Dillenbeck also helped launch new business segments in Canadian agriculture with the introduction of technology, formulations and product combinations.
Published in Companies
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
Published in Profiles
The North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association Inc. (NAFDMA) has announced the selection of Corey Connors as its new executive director.

This appointment comes after Charlie Touchette, who provided NAFDMA with association management services for nearly 20 years, formally concluded his tenure effective May 1, 2018. The selection of Connors was made after an extensive national search overseen by the NAFDMA Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to formally announce Corey’s appointment,” said Tom Tweite, President of NAFDMA.

Connors joins NAFDMA with over 17 years of leadership experience in the agriculture, retail and attractions industries. Most recently, he served as chief staff executive of the North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association (NCNLA).

Prior to NCNLA, he served in advocacy roles for several prominent national and international trade groups including the Society of American Florists (SAF), the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA). Connors holds a Master of Arts in Political Management from the George Washington University and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Clarion University.

“It is a genuine privilege and honor to serve this dynamic, growing industry,” said Connors. “Agritourism and farm direct marketing provide an unparalleled opportunity for consumers to reconnect to the family farm, creating unique experiences and rare opportunities to make precious memories.” He continued, “Our charge is clear: NAFDMA must provide cutting-edge tools and resources that support our community of innovators who seek to grow farm profitability while providing immeasurable benefits to their hometown.”

Connors begins his tenure at NAFDMA under a new operating structure, with the organization previously hiring on two additional direct employees last fall. This positions the association to have a stronger pulse on industry trends and will provide the opportunity to launch new member-focused programs and services. The first employees hired by NAFDMA include Membership Development and Services Manager, Lisa Dean and Education and Operations Manager, Jeff Winston.

“Interacting with motivated farm operators and entrepreneurs is rewarding. It is truly my pleasure to service our members,” said Dean.

“Having worked for this industry over the past five years, I’m excited to elevate the educational offerings that NAFDMA provides to each of its members,” said Winston.
Published in Associations
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/
Published in Profiles
A bold orange border marked the roadside stand of Two EE’s Farm Market in the early days – the same bright identifier still seen on the building today. For many in the community of Surrey, B.C., Two EE’s, and the Schoen family that owns and operates the market, has remained a landmark, even as the community around it changed and underwent mass development.
Published in Profiles
Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association’s 2017 orchard tour focused on innovations and research trials in members’ orchards.
Published in Fruit
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.”
Published in Profiles
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.
Published in Profiles
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.
Published in Profiles
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