Specialty Production
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

February 16, 2016, Mississauga, Ont – Colio Estate Wines recently announced it has purchased Provincial Beverages of Canada Inc. – a producer of premium, Ontario craft ciders and beer – based in Thornbury Village, Ont.

The deal will enhance Colio Estate Wines portfolio through winning entries in the fast growing Ontario craft cider and beer categories.

Colio plans to invest in the existing century-old historic facility located in Thornbury Village to create a unique retail and hospitality experience capitalizing on the beautiful views of Georgian Bay and the Blue Mountains.

"Our company has kept a keen eye on the development of the local craft beer and cider category,” said Jim Clark, president of Colio Estate Wines. “This opportunity allowed us to gain a significant entry with one of the leading producers of high quality craft beer and cider in Ontario."

In the more immediate term, Colio plans to move the existing brewery, located in Nobleton, to the Thornbury Village site, amalgamating the cidery and brewery production under the banner of Thornbury Village Brewery and Cidery. Plans are underway to open distinct cider and brewery retail stores at this location. Retaining key beer and cider sales and production expertise will ensure the continued growth and success of the Thornbury family of brands.

Published in Marketing

April 6, 2015, Calgary, Alta – Canadian organic horticultural growers have a new copper hydroxide available for use in vegetable production.

Parasol WG is now compliant with Canadian Organic Standards. All product manufactured after 2013 contains only substances that appear on the Organic Production Systems Permitted Substances Lists and is suitable for use in organic agriculture.

Parasol WG is a wettable granular formulation of copper hydroxide used to control various fungal diseases in beans (dry and edible), potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and sugar beets. An easy-to-use, dust-free formulation, Parasol WG controls Bacterial Spot, Cercospora Leaf Blight, Common Bacterial Blight, Early and Late Blight, and Halo Bacterial Blight.

“Parasol WG offers an important management tool in organic operations when cultural practices alone aren’t enough to control fungal diseases,” says Sabrina Bladon, Eastern marketing manager with Nufarm Agriculture Inc.

Parasol WG is now certified by Pro-Cert, providing professional organic certification to the Canadian Organic Standard and Products Regulation (COR). All newly certified product can be clearly identified by date of manufacture (2014 and later) and lot number (beginning with 14) located at the base of the 10 kg paper bag of Parasol WG.

Published in Provinces

January 13, 2015, Grande Prairie, Alta – The On-Farm Retail Workshop on Wheels tour takes place on Tuesday January 27, 2015.

“This one-day bus tour is aimed at those interested in diversifying their operations by adding a farm store,” says Karen Goad, a farm direct marketing specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Grande Prairie. “We will visit three on-farm stores in central Alberta, with each store featuring a diverse product mix and unique size and set up.”

The bus departs from the Executive Royal Inn in Leduc at 8:30 a.m. and from the Village at Pigeon Lake at 9:25 a.m.

“The first stop is Gone Green Farms, which has a small farm store,” says Goad. “It features diverse farm raised meats and locally grown produce as well as country décor and gift items. This small farm store is located just off the highway and operates successfully on the honour system of payment.”

The tour continues to Brown Eggs and Lamb. “This on-farm store offers farm raised eggs, lamb, stone-ground rye, whole wheat and barley flour, pancake mixes, flax seed and wool products. To round out the product line, other local producers supply seasonal produce, preserves, honey, pies and dairy, beef and pork products.”

The third stop is Billyco Junction Gardens. “In 2012, the operators converted a garage into their Honeyberry Café and Farm Store where they sell a variety of farm made preserves, juices and honey. Billyco Junction hosts a wide range of value added farm centres, including farmers’ market and on-site produce sales, summer CSA, U-pick, a beautiful on-farm B&B, interpretative farm tours and outdoor country wedding venue.”

Cost for the tour is $25 per person. For more information or to register, contact Karen Goad at 780-538-5629 or via e-mail.

Published in Marketing

December 23, 2014, Edmonton, Alta – Hortsnacks@Night sessions take place January 6, 2015, at the Strathcona Community Centre in Sherwood Park and January 22, 2015, at the Arber Greenhouse in Wetaskiwin.

“The January 6 session features Connie Kehler, who is the executive director of the Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association,” says Dustin Morton, commercial horticulture specialist, Alberta Ag-Info Centre, Stettler. “She has been working in the area of Good Agriculture and Collection Practices (GACP) for a number of years and is an expert in protocol and developing standard operating procedures (SOPs). In this interactive workshop, growers are invited to bring two areas in their operation that they see as critical points in order to develop SOPs as well as a better understanding of how to implement them into their business.”

The January 22 presenter is Kristen Cumming of Cantos Performance Management.

“Kristen an expert in the areas of business relations and leadership,” says Morton. “She’ll be discussing best practices for attracting and retaining the best employees and how to lead them to success within your farm direct business.”

There is no cost for either event and snacks will be provided. Both run from 7:00 p.m. to 9 p.m. and have a one-hour presentation followed by a discussion. To register, call 1-800-387-6030.

Published in Fruit
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