Specialty Production
June 16, 2017, Bradford, Ont. - After watching greenhouse tomatoes and creamer potatoes move from commodity to cool thanks to great flavor and marketing, Quinton Woods thinks carrots are next.

“Everyone sees carrots as the cheap option on the shelf and retailers love promoting them,” said Woods, sales manager for Gwillimdale Farms in Bradford, Ontario, which has just completed a company-wide rebranding.

“Last summer’s consumer research told us that shoppers aren’t concerned about price,” he said, “but they do want their carrots to be sweet, clean and crisp.”

Gwillimdale’s new bag plays up the carrots’ attributes, he said.

“Consumers don’t want traditional carrots,” Woods said. “With all the different nationalities in Toronto in particular, there’s more pressure every year for new offerings in the category.”

Gwillimdale is one of several Ontario farms growing Nantes carrots, which have gained popularity, especially at farmers markets. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
June 15, 2017, New Zealand - Potatoes are an integral part of a Kiwi diet, whether mashed up or sliced into chips, but there's always been a very distinct issue with them: they're not particularly healthy.

But now some New Zealand farmers have invented a new kind of potato they claim has 40 percent less carbs.

Farmer Andrew Keeney told Three's The Project that the Lotato, as it's been called, is grown in Pukekohe and Ohakune, and created by cross-breeding other varieties. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
June 9, 2017, Winnipeg, Man. - Researchers with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are setting the stage for what may be a new entry into the Canadian-grown "super" food market.

Lingonberries are already popular in Scandinavian cuisine where they are used in sauces for chicken and pork, as well as in muffins and breads.

Small, tart and slightly sweet, they are native to British Columbia, Manitoba, and Atlantic Canada and have the potential to become a valuable crop for Canadian growers.

The lingonberry is closely related to the blueberry and cranberry, which are also high in anti-oxidants. The benefits of lingonberries and their juice may go even further: preliminary studies in Sweden suggest there is potential to help prevent weight gain, and to help prevent high sugar and cholesterol levels.

But there’s more! New research from Dr. Chris Siow, Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and principal investigator with the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), located at St. Boniface Hospital, is showing that lingonberries may also contribute to healthy kidneys.

Here’s how: during kidney surgery, including transplants, kidneys experience low oxygen, and when oxygen is returned to the organ there can be inflammation and damage. In tests using lab rats Dr. Siow’s research team fed one millilitre (the human-equivalent of one cup) of Manitoba lingonberry juice daily for three weeks to one group and none to another prior to kidney surgery.

The rats that had consumed lingonberry juice had improved kidney function, reduced kidney stress and reduced inflammation following the operation in comparison to those that had none. These results also showed that as the concentration of lingonberry increased, the protective effect also increased.

“Overall, the research data obtained from these studies is very promising and we are encouraged that we may have a commodity that has positive impacts on human health,” said Dr. Siow. “We plan to continue with our studies to validate the early results and look for additional benefits the berry may provide.”

Meanwhile across the country, research on the lingonberry plant itself is taking place. Work with lingonberry production and germplasm enhancement is being done at AAFC’s St. John’s Research and Development Centre (NL) under the leadership of Dr. Samir Debnath. He has been working in collaboration with Dr. Siow.

“Lingonberry will be a potential health-promoting berry crop for Canada” said Dr. Debnath who developed a number of promising hybrids between European and Canadian lingonberries.

Dr. Debnath is also working in collaboration with the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government and with Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) growers for growing lingonberry hybrids under field conditions.

Drs. Debnath and Siow not only believe that this berry will be beneficial to consumers – especially when studies like his continue to produce positive results – but that lingonberries will also be of interest to growers as they may provide new business opportunities.

Key discoveries:
  • Lingonberries contain more anthocyanins, the pigments that give them their red colour, per gram than most commonly consumed berries (i.e., blueberries, cranberries). It is these compounds that may provide health benefits.
  • Lingonberries are rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Lingonberries can be found growing wild in the northern regions of Canada. Research shows that the lingonberries grown in Northern Manitoba contain the highest levels of antioxidants.
Published in Research
May 24, 2017 - The International Potato Center (ICP) researchers have been working with NASA to understand how potatoes could be cultivated on Mars through a series of experiments on Earth.

We spoke to CIP sub programme science leader for integrated crop and system research, Jan Kreuze, and NASA Ames geobiologist and researcher, Julio Valdivia–Silva, about their otherworldly project.

Valdivia–Silva says the partnership between CIP and NASA came about through the organisations' mutual interest in growing crops under difficult conditions.

"The initiative came from CIP, with the intention of solving problems around cropping in desert areas as a result of climate change and desertification," Valdivia–Silva explains. "Meanwhile, NASA was interested in the project for the need to grow crops in future human colonies outside Earth."

But why potatoes? Kreuze says this is down to the minimal amount of water potatoes require per kilogram grown compared to other major cereals, as well as their ability to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions, their nutritional value, and their fast growing, high yield nature. READ MORE
Published in Research
April 27, 2017, Summerland, BC – In preparation for the fall 2017 commercial launch of nonbrowning Arctic apples, Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) has added produce industry veteran Jeanette De-Coninck-Hertzler as sales manager and Denise Everett as communications specialist to their team.

De-Coninck-Hertzler brings to OSF more than 30 years of produce sales experience. After obtaining a BSc, with a major in agricultural business management, from California Polytechnic State University, De-Coninck-Hertzler began her career as a sales representative with Frieda’s Inc. in 1985, where she worked for nearly 20 years before joining MCL Distributing, since re-named to 4Earth Farms, as a senior account manager. De-Coninck-Hertzler has since worked in various roles with Shamrock Foods Company, Greengate Fresh LLLP, and Index Fresh, Inc. As sales manager, she will serve as OSF’s sales contact for Arctic apples.

“Jeanette has a proven track record of sales in the produce industry, strong agricultural roots and a passionate personality,” says Jennifer Armen, OSF’s director of business development and marketing. “We look forward to her added experience as we introduce Arctic apples to consumers.”

Denise Everett will join the company on May 8 as the team’s communications specialist. Denise will be leading the company’s media relations, serving as OSF’s primary contact for interviews and executing on the company’s social media strategy. Everett has more than 15 years experience as a communications professional, and began her career in the journalism sector in B.C.

Also in May, OSF will welcome three new members to its research and development team, who will be working to improve additional apple varieties, as well as other tree fruits. Additionally, Jenavive Holmes has joined OSF as an administrative specialist.

OSF is also implementing role changes of current team members to further boost the scope of the team’s activities. Joel Brooks has transitioned from brand manager to brand marketing manager and Jessica Brady has transitioned from marketing and communications specialist to stakeholder outreach and education. In their new positions, Brooks will take a lead role in OSF’s branding, marketing and communications activities, and Brady will focus on outreach and relationship development with key influencer groups and organizations.

“It’s an exciting time for us here at OSF,” says Carter. “With so many strong additions to our team to help bring Arctic apples to eager consumers, we look forward to continued team growth and the introduction of additional wholesome and delicious apple varieties.”
Published in Companies
April 18, 2017, Okanagan Valley, B.C. - A Chardonnay icewine made in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley won the top prize at a prestigious international Chardonnay competition in France.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s 2014 Chardonnay Icewine beat 706 wines from 38 countries to take first place at the Chardonnay du Monde competition in Burgundy on March 8 to 10.

Two other wines from Okanagan, the 2016 See ya Later Ranch Chardonnay and McWatters Collection 2014 Chardonnay, won prestigious gold medals at the competition but Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s icewine was the only Canadian wine to finish in the top 10.

The award-winning icewine, which retails at $148 per bottle, has “notes of honey, apricot, and poached pears,” according to the winery. The winery recommends serving it “chilled by itself or with fresh fruit, drizzled over ice cream or in a nice icewine martini.”

Second place in the competition went to a wine from Spain, third place to a South African wine and fourth place to an Austrian wine. Four B.C. wines and two Ontario wines won silver medals. READ MORE
Published in Fruit
April 10, 2017, Scottsdale, AZ – Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF) was honoured with a Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Industry Role Model award at the Produce for Better Health’s annual conference, held last week. This represents the third consecutive year of Fruits & Veggies – More Matters recognition, with OSF’s designation as an industry champion in each of the previous two years. 

Jessica Brady of OSF accepted the award on behalf of the company.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits is proud to be a long-time supporter of Fruits and Veggies – More Matters, and we look forward to continuing this support in years to come,” she said. “OSF has always been committed to promoting produce consumption for all ages, and we look forward to our flagship products, nonbrowning Arctic apples, helping support healthy lifestyles.”

Recipients of the Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Industry Role Model awards are recognized for the ongoing support and promotion of the health based mission and messaging efforts associated with the program.
Published in Companies
March 24, 2017, Kentville, NS – Loblaws recently recognized Pazazz apple with its top honour – selection as a President’s Choice product.

President’s Choice status is only bestowed on produce and other food items that demonstrate truly exceptional quality, taste and great value to customers.

Grown locally in Canada by Van Meekeren Farms, Pazazz is a premium winter apple variety and has been in development in conjunction with Honeybear Brands for more than nine years. A descendent of the crowd-pleasing Honeycrisp, Pazazz has a unique blend of sweet and tart flavours and explosive crunch that has attracted a loyal following of customers in just a few short years on the market.

“Each year there are literally hundreds of candidates for President’s Choice status,” says Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs for Loblaws Atlantic. “We consider each very carefully for perfect taste, appearance, premium quality and a uniqueness they offer to our Loblaws customers. Pazazz scored highly across the board and was an easy selection for us to make.”

Available now, Pazazz will be sold in 2lb special President’s Choice branded bags in select Loblaws stores while supplies last.

“This is a huge honour and we’re very excited,” says Michael Van Meekeren, co-owner of Van Meekeren Farms. “Pazazz is a young variety compared to many available today and because it’s a winter variety that peaks in flavour in the winter months, it gives apple lovers something that is very difficult to get at this time of year – a premium apple variety with that just-picked freshness.”
 
Pazazz is harvested in late October but reaches the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavours during the winter months, arriving on Loblaws and other retailer shelves in early January each year. This season the variety has shattered all retail goals and expectations.

For more information about Pazazz or Honeybear Brands visit PazazzApple.com or honeybearbrands.com.
Published in Marketing
Sweet potato consumption is on the rise across the nation and Canadian horticultural growers will soon have the chance to get more of the action.
Published in Research
March 1, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Total organic agricultural land is increasing in Canada. The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA)'s latest research has revealed 5,053 certified organic operations in Canada, accounting for 2.43 million acres of land.

"Canada's organic sector continues to rely on the voluntary disclosure of data by certifiers and provincial organizations,” said Tia Loftsgard, COTA's executive director. “In 2016 we finally have universal participation, resulting in the most rigorous production data yet. However, year-over-year change and inconsistencies remain a risk until a national mandatory data system has been implemented."

Key findings:
  • Organic acreage in Canada increased by more than 70,000 acres to 2.43 million acres, or 1.5 per cent, between 2014 and 2015.
  • Organic areas now account for approximately 1.5 per cent of total agricultural land in Canada.
  • While pasture still occupies the largest share of all organic acreage, its proportion has decreased from 65 per cent to 63.8 per cent primarily due to significant increases in vegetable & root crop acreage, as well fruit & nut acreage.
  • In 2015, Canada imported at least $652 million worth of organic products, representing a 37 per cent increase from 2012.
  • There are 5,053 certified organic operations in Canada, over half of which are in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
  • Of the certified operations, there are 4,045 primary producers, 618 livestock operations and 1,542 processors, manufacturers and retailers in Canada.
Despite the growth of Canadian organic acreage in recent years, demand for organic is significantly outpacing supply. Organic retail sales in Canada are now worth $4.7 billion annually, a 13.6 per cent growth per year since 2007, while organic production is experiencing much slower growth.

"Our organic agricultural production in Canada cannot keep up with the exponential growth of the demand, this is resulting in an increased reliance on import organics," said Loftsgard. "Our government must introduce incentives to encourage farm operators to transition to certified organic agriculture."

During the three-year transition period to organic, farmers often experience temporary decrease of yield without benefiting from the organic premiums. Programs to support organic transition and its associated financial risk needs to be put in place.
Published in Production
The long, hot summer days of 2016 helped to create one of the best tomato crops Ontario has seen for a long time. Many farmers were faced with a bumper crop. So what can a farmer do with all those extra tomatoes?
Published in Marketing
Silicon (Si) is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust next to oxygen. It’s a major component of plant tissue and is found in varying concentrations in virtually all living tissue, plants, animals, and humans.
Published in Production
A representative of Enza Fruit Products, the U.S. subsidiary of New Zealand-based Enza/T&G Global, recently shared with B.C. fruit growers his views on club varieties and how they are influencing the market.
Published in Marketing
January 24, 2017, Niagara Falls, Ont – Enjoy a lively day chock-full of ideas and insights on mentoring, merchandising and marketing from one of Canada’s leading retail & farm market experts.

The Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA) is hosting a workshop with farm marketer Pete Luckett Feb. 21 at the Marriott Gateway to the Falls, Niagara Falls, Ont. The “farminar” will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Participants will leave armed and dangerous with loads of insights to try out in their operation. Customers won’t know what hit them! (But they’ll be loving it!) The day will conclude with an interactive “up close and personal” chat with Pete, where particpamnts can ask questions or discuss those managing, merchandising or marketing perils that keep them up at night.

Topics to be covered in the workshop:
  • Building a Team: excellence is customer service can only begin with a satisfied and motivated team
  • Merchandising: 70 per cent of all purchases are made on impulse and powerful merchandising is the best method to capitalize on this opportunity.
  • Marketing: Whether your operation is roadside, retail, café or a combination of it all, you’ve got to create excitement and energy – every day.
OFFMA will also be holding its annual Ontario Farm Fresh Excellence Awards Banquet on Feb. 21 starting at 6 p.m. at the Marriott Gateway to the Falls. Enjoy a relaxing evening and meal with farm friends, take part in the silent auction, and celebrate the successes of the direct farm marketing industry.

For more information or to order tickets for the workshop and/or banquet, call 905-841-9278.
Published in Marketing
When a new crop takes off, it’s not unusual that specialty equipment is designed and commercialized in order to make things easier. In this case, the crop is garlic, and the equipment is a planter and an add-on under-cutter (both pulled behind a tractor), designed and manufactured by Garlic-EEZ of Dundalk, Ont., owned by garlic grower Ken Hunt.
Published in Equipment
January 17, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The HortSnacks-to-Go 2016-2017 Webinar Series continues on January 30, 2017, at 3 p.m. MT (5 p.m. ET).

“The webinar will feature Rebecca Shortt from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs,” says Dustin Morton, commercial horticulture specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “An expert in irrigation management, Rebecca will discuss scheduling with drip irrigation and how to get the most bang for your buck from your irrigation system.”

There is no charge to attend the webinar. To register, call Dustin Morton at 780-679-1314 or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

For more information on the HortSnacks-to-Go Webinar Series, go to AF's horticulture homepage.
Published in Irrigating
January 2, 2017, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont – Cold December weather made for an exceptional year for icewine in the Niagara wine region of southern Ontario.

A sustained cold snap meant wineries across the region were able to harvest frozen grapes weeks earlier than normal, in some cases even months, meeting Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) regulations way ahead of schedule. READ MORE
Published in Fruit
January 2, 2017 – The emergence of the Honeycrisp in recent years illustrates how a new variety can change the apple marketing landscape, retailers say.
 
That means there are more choices than ever for consumers, they say. READ MORE
Published in Marketing
December 16, 29016, Leamington, Ont – Fresh-picked local strawberries in the winter are no longer a fantasy in Essex County.

A Leamington greenhouse is growing strawberries and gearing up to have its berries in grocery stores by Christmas.

The strawberries at Orangeline Farms are marketed as Zing! Healthy Foods and have been sold in Metro stores and at the greenhouse at Highway 77 and Road 14 north of Leamington. READ MORE

 

Published in Fruit

 

John Picard, owner of Ramblin’ Road Brewery in La Salette, Ont., was raised on a farm, worked tobacco fields through his teens and studied economics as a young adult. He always had it “in his blood” to return to farming.

That passion, in addition to things like new equipment availability, have allowed Picard to create Ontario’s first and only “brewery farm,” where he grows hops, makes beer, makes kettle chips and has created a very unique product that couldn’t be made anywhere else.

Picard’s brewery farm adventure began in 2004, when Picard found suitable property to purchase. In 2006, the equipment necessary for the production of craft beer became available, and he was keen.

“How to develop a craft beer business on the farm was the question,” he remembers. “We started with planting 3,600 hops rhizomes that year and it went well. It evolved into the brewery project, which started in 2010.”

By 2012, he and his team were proudly introducing the people of Norfolk County to their first locally brewed craft beer. Ramblin’ Road current offerings include a lager, ale and pilsner – as well as another brew that is very special.

The uniqueness of this particular beer is directly related to the uniqueness of the kettle chips that Picard had started making when he bought the farm in 2004. Picard wanted the snacks to stand out with a full-bodied flavour, and had come up with the idea to take the raw sliced potatoes and bathe them in beer stock to achieve this.

“Creating unique food products has always been a passion of mine, and the market for these kettle chips was already there,” Picard says. “People in bars and pubs are looking for local, unique and high-quality snacks. We just recognized this market and offered the consumer a distinct product in both processing and flavour.”

One day, Picard eyed the lager beer stock that they bathed the potato slices in, and wondered what would happen if he tried to take it all the way to beer. It was a simple lager, and using professional consultation, he was able to take the liquid and very carefully measure its acquired starches. It was hoped, and proven to be true, that the “potato sugars” would create a very distinctive smoothness in the final beer. These sugars, Picard would also learn, also offer a touch of sweetness from the start, which continues to evolve in the aging process, creating what he calls “an amazingly distinctive product.” In addition to measuring how much potato starch was present, Picard needed to bring it to a consistent volume in order to have the right final desired alcohol content. An enzymatic reaction process does the trick, controlling how much breakdown of starch occurs, allowing all processing parameters to be calculable and factored into the finished product, and eliminating all concerns for beer deterioration and oxidation.

Ensuring the process was repeatable was also a tough thing to accomplish.

“There are differences in potato quality, due to things like whether it’s a new crop or a stored crop,” Picard notes. “We didn’t know how the sugars would vary through the season.”

It took six months of trials to optimize the process and guarantee quality. At that point, Ramblin’ Road Premium Dakota Pearl Potato Ale was born.

“When we tasted it, it was fabulous and has been our number one seller since its introduction.”

Ramblin’ Road has seen a doubling in demand for both its Dakota Pearl ale and its kettle chips over the last two years, and this growth continues.

“We’re just beginning to establish networks for product distribution,” Picard explains. “Currently, we supply a few retail outlets from Chatham to the Bruce Peninsula. The snack products are seeing expanded market opportunities and great repeat sales. Locally, the beer distribution has been serviced primarily in Norfolk, with a few specialty accounts in restaurants in Oxford and the Kitchener-Waterloo area. This year, we are creating a delivery system for those enquiries outside of this area, and we currently have had over 20 enquiries.”  

To create all his brews, Picard grows 3.7 acres of hops, with varieties that possess varying degrees of bitterness, flavouring and aromatics. Those currently used in production are Mt. Hood, Nugget, Fuggle, Cascade and Brewer’s Gold, with Centennial, Hallertau and Simcoe under cultivation for future use.

“Some hops have one quality and some hops have all three, and the combinations are incredible with our selection of cultivars,” Picard says. “We are learning every year how to improve our hops qualities and yields. In 2014, the moderate heat seemed to be a plus for the hops as we realized very good hops cones, the weather in combination with proper fertilization are key to a lush hops field. We’ve also built our own harvester.”

In 2015, Picard and his team expected to process hops for commercial sales. To prepare them for this after growing and drying, their alpha acid content must be measured, followed by hammer-milling, pelletizing and vacuum sealing into packages.

Picard points to marketing as another current challenge.

“We are a bit more cautious in the marketing side as there is a very competitive demand for limited beer tap space in most licensee establishments,” he says. “We choose to be in venues where the owner chooses his offerings based on his customers’ tastes rather than what is cheap and discounted for quick sale. We are sourcing markets for our kettle chips where we are able to maintain differentiation from the multi-nationals.”  

Future plans include the development of more beverage and snack products.

“Just in December 2014, we launched our fifth beer – PurebRED, which highlights the true red qualities of roasted and malted barley, added to this is our elevated hops bitterness for a very well-balanced flavour,” he notes. “It is my hope that the market distribution/retail system will expand accordingly, as this seems to be lynch pin to connect consumers and local products. But I think that with the rise in consumer awareness and demand for these products, the distribution system will evolve or alternative avenues of accessibility will develop.”

Picard says winning a Premier’s Award in 2014 was a great honour, not only in that they recognize his efforts, but because they as a whole recognize that agriculture is continually and rapidly evolving.

“Projects like the Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm are developments that you would not have seen 10 years ago,” he says. “Highlighting these unique and diverse expansions into agriculture is a great way to confirm with consumers that their food supply is indeed more local, traceable and defined. It’s truly a recognition that entrepreneurs will continue to enhance our food experiences and that agriculture is capable of continually surprising us.”

 

 

 

Published in Marketing
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