Success in Agriculture
The Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) is pleased to welcome Gabrielle Ferguson as the new leadership programs director.

In this new position, Ferguson will be directly responsible for managing ROI’s long-running Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program, and continuing to develop the organization’s other leadership program offerings. Ferguson will also be instrumental in maintaining and creating sponsor relationships for current and future programs.

Ferguson comes to ROI with over 25 years’ experience in both industry and government, having worked with organizations such as the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Cargill, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Guelph.

She is also a graduate of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (Class 15). Ferguson lives on a cash-crop farm in Lambton County and is passionate about promoting a greater understanding between agriculture and the public.

Chief Executive Officer Norm Ragetlie is delighted that Ferguson has joined the team and says, “Gabe’s arrival will give us a chance to take a fresh look at our leadership programming offerings. Gabe brings a wealth of ag sector relationships to this job which we will build upon to ensure the needs of the sector are being met.”

Ferguson is expected to begin her position with the organization in September.

“I’m excited to support leadership development in the ag sector and rural communities,” Ferguson says. “I’m looking forward to this new role and engaging with industry stakeholders to explore existing and new opportunities for leadership programming.”

The Rural Ontario Institute is a non-profit organization committed to developing leaders and facilitating collaboration on issues and opportunities facing rural and northern Ontario. More information is available at www.ruralontarioinstitute.ca/.
Published in Companies
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
Chinese scientists have developed a nanomaterial to control potato sprouts and reduce the poisonous substance in potatoes, providing a new method for potato storage.

Stored potatoes usually sprout rapidly, at the same time producing a significant amount of solanine, a toxic substance which endangers human health. Potato sprouts can be controlled using various techniques such as temperature control, irradiation and use of chemical inhibitors.

Scientists from Hefei Institute of Physical Science under Chinese Academy of Sciences developed a new nanomaterial called hydrophobic nano silica that can be used to inhibit the growth of potato sprouts. When potatoes are immersed in the solution of the material, a hydrophobic coating is created on the surface of the potatoes, effectively inhibiting potato sprouts and decreasing solanine. | READ MORE
Published in Research
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
After a short 5 years in business, the Cloverbelt Food Co-op has changed the face of local food distribution in the Northern region of Ontario.

Much of the rural communities in the North are geographically vast, preventing its residents from having access to healthy, fresh and locally-produced products. Cloverbelt, a small co-operative located in Dryden Ont., whose mission is to strengthen food security and foster a thriving local food community, has solutions to combat this problem.

“The objective of the food co-op was to make local food more visible and accessible by offering products sourced entirely from this region,” notes Jennifer Springett, Cloverbelt’s president. But it’s much easier said than done. Adds Springett, “We’ve had to become innovative to find ways for food to reach many parts of the region.”

One such innovation is the development of their online farmer’s market and distribution service. The initiative was developed out of a need to provide access to more fresh foods produced by local farmers, and to find a more sustainable way to operate the local food box program in Dryden. By allowing consumers to select what local products they want to buy rather than getting a box of goods with items they may not use, it enables farmers to match their supply with demand.

The program was so well received in Dryden, that residents from other small communities – many of which don’t have access to a full grocery store – requested a similar program in their region. The online market recently expanded their transportation and distribution network to the Fort Francis, Atikokan and Red Lake areas, thanks to a partnership with Louden Brother Wholesale.

“Rather than reinventing the wheel and replicating what we’re already doing, we found ways to expand and distribute food between communities. This gives consumers access to a greater variety of foods, while serving more communities,” says Springett.

In order to continue innovating, Cloverbelt is developing a Food Charter for the Kenora and Rainy River Districts, with the objective of encouraging community policy and commitment to support local food.

“Such a policy is necessary to align municipal level commitment with provincial objectives for increased Ontario food sales. It is also critical to ensuing continued support for local food in the North, and to overcome key barriers to growth in the agricultural sector,” says Springett.

Using a collaborative approach, consultations were held with the different municipalities in small, rural communities. The draft Charter, completed in March 2018, sets out a vision for local food supply in Northern Ontario, and is currently being circulated for final input.

“Cloverbelt is a prime example of how co-operative businesses address both social and economic challenges within the province, by finding innovative ways to collaboratively solve a need within a community or region,” says Erin Morgan, executive director of the Ontario Co-operative Association.

Learn more about the Cloverbelt Food Co-op online at https://www.cloverbeltlocalfoodcoop.com
Published in Marketing
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
The Canadian Agri-Business Education Foundation (CABEF) is proud to announce the winners of their annual scholarships. Each of these exceptional students will receive $2,500 for post-secondary agricultural education.

The 2018 winners are:
  • Adriana Van Tryp, Burdett, Alta.
  • Laura Carruthers, Frenchman Butte, Sask.
  • Pete Giesbrecht, Winkler, Man.
  • Owen Ricker, Dunnville, Ont.
  • Jeremy Chevalley, Moose Creek Ont.
  • Émilie Carrier, Princeville, Que.
  • Justin Kampman, Abbotsford, B.C.
Each year, CABEF awards scholarships of $2,500 to Canadian students entering their first year at an accredited agriculture college or university. CABEF is a charity foundation that encourages students to pursue their passion for agriculture and to bring their new ideas and talent to the industry.

Scholarship winners are evaluated on a combination of leadership attributes, academic standing and their response to the essay question, "What do you consider to be the three main opportunities for the Canadian agriculture industry and which one inspires you the most?"

“We are proud to support the future of the Canadian agriculture industry by providing these scholarships,” said Jenn Norrie, chair of the board for CABEF. “With the high-quality applications received from students across the country, the future of Canadian agriculture is bright.”

For further information about CABEF’s work, visit cabef.org.
Published in Provinces
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
AgSafe, formerly known as Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA), is celebrating their 25th anniversary as British Columbia’s agriculture health and safety association.

Established in May of 1993, AgSafe has been the expert on safety in the workplace for B.C.’s agriculture industry and offers site-specific health and safety programs, training, evaluation and consultation services. AgSafe is also a COR program certifying partner and offers a Certificate of Recognition (COR) program for large and small employers.

The organization was established as a joint initiative of WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia), the BC Agriculture Council and the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union as B.C.’s experts on workplace safety for the agriculture industry.

Wendy Bennett has been the AgSafe executive director since 2015. “I am really happy to be in this position and celebrating this milestone,” Bennett commented. “I’m proud of AgSafe and the work our team does. Our consultants and advisors work hard to deliver safety information and guidance to hundreds of employers and workers around the province every year, and we’ve seen a significant change over the past twenty-five years with better safety practices for those who work in agriculture.”

Don Dahr, former WorkSafeBC Director of Industry and Labour Services, is the newly elected chair of the AgSafe Board of Directors replacing long-time retiring chair, Ralph McGinn.

“I’ve been involved with, and supported this organization for many years,” says Dahr. “As a non-voting member on the AgSafe Board of Directors for five years my role was to provide guidance on issues affecting agriculture and safety initiatives. Over the years I’ve watched the organization make great strides in developing and offering safety resources and consultation to B.C.’s farmers and ranchers.”

Just over half of B.C.’s agriculture industry employers regularly use services, resources, or information from AgSafe and almost two thirds of agriculture employers have accessed AgSafe resources periodically.

AgSafe’s services are also available to B.C. based landscape trades and professionals, garden centres, wholesale and retail nurseries, suppliers, and tree services.

For more information about AgSafe services or agriculture workplace safety call 1-877-533-1789 or visit www.AgSafeBC.ca.
Published in Associations
Farmers across Ontario are welcoming the return of thousands of seasonal labourers who help the province’s fruit and vegetable industry thrive.

Approximately 18,000 workers from Mexico and the Caribbean are expected to be placed at Ontario farms this growing season as a supplement to local labour under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). Approximately 1,450 farms will benefit from the program this year.

The program was established in 1966 to respond to a severe shortage of domestic agricultural workers. It continues to serve the same role 52 years later, enabling Ontario farmers to stay in business.

“Men and women from overseas have been helping Ontario farmers solve a critical shortage of agricultural workers for more than half a century,” says Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), which administers the program. “At the same time, they’ve helped lift themselves and their families out of a punishing cycle of poverty in their home countries.”

SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, which means supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from partner countries only if farmers cannot find domestic workers willing to take the same jobs.

Farmers who rely on the program to meet their labour needs do hire Canadians. The challenge is that not enough domestic workers — Canadians who may live in the rural areas where these farms are located — are interested in taking these positions, often because they are seasonal in nature.

Recent labour market research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council cited SAWP as a key reason our horticultural industry is thriving.

In Ontario, the program plays a crucial role in helping the industry generate $5.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 34,280 jobs.

“If we want to continue having access to high-quality, fresh, local produce in Ontario, we need the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program to continue connecting farmers with the workers they need,” Forth says.

The vast majority of men and women who come to Ontario through SAWP believe the benefits of the program far outweigh any challenges or drawbacks, such as being away from their families for part of the year on a temporary basis.

Proof of this can be seen in the large number of workers who speak positively about the program and voluntarily return year after year — some of them to the same employers for decades. Approximately 85 per cent of the workers opt to return on repeat contracts in an average year.

Seasonal workers can earn as much as 10 times or more working here than they could in their own countries, if they fortunate enough to find employment. This income allows the workers to improve the standard of living of their families, educate their children and buy and operate businesses and farms at home.

Of the many different temporary worker programs in Canada, SAWP is the only one that offers 24-hour a day assistance to workers directly with people from their home countries. Each country participating in the program maintains a liaison service or consular office in Ontario to help look after the general welfare of agricultural workers and help them navigate any issues or complications they may face while working here.

For more information about Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, visit: www.farmsontario.ca.
Published in Profiles
In the past 10 years, the invasive fruit fly known as the spotted-wing drosophila has caused millions of dollars of damage to berry and other fruit crops.

Biologists at the University of California San Diego have developed a method of manipulating the genes of an agricultural pest that has invaded much of the United States and caused millions of dollars in damage to high-value berry and other fruit crops.

Research led by Anna Buchman in the lab of Omar Akbari, a new UC San Diego insect genetics professor, describes the world’s first “gene drive” system—a mechanism for manipulating genetic inheritance—in Drosophila suzukii, a fruit fly commonly known as the spotted-wing drosophila.

As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Buchman and her colleagues developed a gene drive system termed Medea (named after the mythological Greek enchantress who killed her offspring) in which a synthetic “toxin” and a corresponding “antidote” function to dramatically influence inheritance rates with nearly perfect efficiency.

“We’ve designed a gene drive system that dramatically biases inheritance in these flies and can spread through their populations,” said Buchman. “It bypasses normal inheritance rules. It’s a new method for manipulating populations of these invasive pests, which don’t belong here in the first place.”

Native to Japan, the highly invasive fly was first found on the West Coast in 2008 and has now been reported in more than 40 states.

The spotted wing drosophila uses a sharp organ known as an ovipositor to pierce ripening fruit and deposit eggs directly inside the crop, making it much more damaging than other drosophila flies that lay eggs only on top of decaying fruit. Drosophila suzukii has reportedly caused more than $39 million in revenue losses for the California raspberry industry alone and an estimated $700 million overall per year in the U.S.

In contained cage experiments of spotted wing drosophila using the synthetic Medea system, the researchers reported up to 100 percent effective inheritance bias in populations descending 19 generations.

“We envision, for example, replacing wild flies with flies that are alive but can’t lay eggs directly in blueberries,” said Buchman.

Applications for the new synthetic gene drive system could include spreading genetic elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as temperature.

If a certain temperature is reached, for example, the genes within the modified spotted wing flies would trigger its death. Other species of fruit flies would not be impacted by this system.

“This is the first gene drive system in a major worldwide crop pest,” said Akbari, who recently moved his lab to UC San Diego from UC Riverside, where the research began. “Given that some strains demonstrated 100 per cent non-Mendelian transmission ratios, far greater than the 50 percent expected for normal Mendelian transmission, this system could in the future be used to control populations of D. suzukii.”

Another possibility for the new gene drive system would be to enhance susceptibility to environmentally friendly insecticides already used in the agricultural industry.

“I think everybody wants access to quality fresh produce that’s not contaminated with anything and not treated with toxic pesticides, and so if we don’t deal with Drosophila suzukii, crop losses will continue and might lead to higher prices,” said Buchman. “So this gene drive system is a biologically friendly, environmentally friendly way to protect an important part of our food supply.”

Co-authors of the paper include: John Marshall of UC Berkeley, Dennis Ostrovski of UC Riverside and Ting Yang of UC Riverside and now UC San Diego. The California Cherry Board supported the research through a grant.
Published in Research
There’s a dramatic shift in consumer preference to more locally sourced, sustainably grown foods, with sales expected to top $20.2 billion by 2019.

The local food market is fertile ground for FreshSpoke, a Canadian tech start-up that caught the attention of Food-X and earned them a place as one of only eight companies at their leading food-tech accelerator based in New York City.

Food-X is the largest global investor in early stage food companies and receives hundreds of applications each cohort.

“We work with a handful of companies that have big ideas and the potential to make a difference in the food industry”, comments Peter Bodenheimer, program director at FOOD-X. “We believe that FreshSpoke’s marketplace platform will revolutionize the way retailers and restaurants procure local food.”

FreshSpoke is tackling the marketing and distribution challenges that have kept most farmers and micro-producers out of the wholesale market.

“Consumers care about local and sustainably grown food and are willing to spend more to get it”, states Marcia Woods, CEO and passionate force behind FreshSpoke, “and the restaurants and retailers that are keeping pace with this trend want a reliable and cost effective procurement solution like FreshSpoke.”

FreshSpoke’s platform handles the order, payment and delivery for farmers, growers as well as food and beverage artisans, and gives wholesale buyers a direct pipeline to fresh, local food, delivered to their door using a shared delivery system.

“Instead of putting more trucks on the road, FreshSpoke leverages the excess capacity that exists in the delivery system”, explains Ms. Woods. “This drives down cost and gives commercial drivers, including producers, the ability to earn extra income delivering local food.”

FreshSpoke has struck a chord as some 300 Canadian wholesale businesses are now registered buyers with access to an online catalogue of over 1,500 products from some 175 local producers. This Spring, FreshSpoke will launch to wholesale buyers and producers in the U.S., beginning in Northwest Ohio and Southern Michigan.

The notion of a centralized marketplace for wholesale buyers to procure local food comes as good news for farm to table restaurateur, Scott Bowman of Fowl & Fodder in Toledo, Ohio. “I’m excited about FreshSpoke coming to our region because I need to fill gaps in my local produce sourcing during the off-season, and I’m excited to have a more diverse list of locally available product for my seasonal menu.”

For more information about FreshSpoke, visit their web site at www.freshspoke.com or call 844.483-7374.
Published in Companies
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Dr. Qiang Liu is developing a new plant protein-based bioplastic that will keep meat, dairy, and other food products fresher longer.

The bioplastic is made from the by-products created by industrial processing of certain plants. Not only will this bioplastic protect perishable food better than regular plastic packaging, it is also more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.

Dr. Liu has been working to advance the science around bioplastics for over 15 years. He is a "green" chemist - someone who specializing in making plastics and other goods from agricultural plants.

"I, along with industry, saw great opportunity to create something useful out of the leftover by-product from industrial canola oil processing, which is why this project was funded under the Growing Forward 2 Canola Cluster. We can extract all sorts of things like starches, proteins, and oils from plant materials to make plastics, but I am particularly interested in proteins from canola meal in this research project," says Dr. Liu.

Plant protein-based bioplastic has been shown to have similar attributes to other plant-based bio-products; it can stretch, it doesn’t deform in certain temperatures, and in some cases, it biodegrades. That being said, building the polymers (long chains of repeating molecules) that are the basis of biofilms and plastics can be tricky and finding just the right technique and formula is challenging.

One challenge with some protein polymers is that they are can be sensitive to a lot of moisture - not a good trait if you want to use them to protect food with a natural moisture content. Dr. Liu and his team recently discovered a formula and technique to make soy and canola protein polymers water-resistant by "wrapping" them in another polymer.

The team was also able to add an anti-microbial compound to the mix, which not only made the resulting bioplastic able to prevent nasty bacteria like E. coli from growing - but, depending on how much was added, also could change the porosity of the film.

The porosity of bioplastic (essentially how many holes are in it) is very important in food packaging since different foods need different amounts of moisture to stay fresh. Having a way to adjust porosity (either having more or less small holes in it) is a great feature in a potential plastic because it can either let more or less water go into or out of the area where the food is.

Even though it is in the early stages of development, Dr. Liu believes there is great future for bringing this technology into the marketplace.

"The use of plant-based plastics as a renewable resource for packaging and consumer goods is becoming increasingly attractive due to environmental concerns and the availability of raw materials. My hope is that someday this research will lead to all plastics being made from renewable sources. It would be a win for the agriculture sector to have another source of income from waste and a win for our environment," explains Dr. Liu.

Should this potential biofilm prove viable, it would be a win for the agriculture sector and the environment, as it would provide added revenue by creating a renewable plastic alternative.
Published in Federal
For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 per cent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants, as reported in Nature Communications.

The international team increased the levels of a photosynthetic protein (PsbS) to conserve water by tricking plants into partially closing their stomata, the microscopic pores in the leaf that allow water to escape. Stomata are the gatekeepers to plants: When open, carbon dioxide enters the plant to fuel photosynthesis, but water is allowed to escape through the process of transpiration. | READ MORE
Published in Research
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
August 30, 2017, California - The Public Strawberry Breeding Program at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues in California and Florida have received a $4.5 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the disease resistance and sustainable production of strawberries throughout the nation.

The collaborative grant is good news for strawberry farmers and consumers everywhere, according to Rick Tomlinson, president of the California Strawberry Commission. To signal its own support, the strawberry commission pledged an additional $1.8 million to the UC Davis program.

“An investment in the UC Davis strawberry breeding program is an investment in the future of strawberries,” Tomlinson said. “Thanks to their groundbreaking research and strong partnerships, Director Steve Knapp and his colleagues are developing improved strawberry varieties publicly available to farmers.”

Improving genetic resistance to disease

Strawberries constitute a $4.4 billion-dollar industry in the United States, and 94 percent of the nation’s strawberry fruit and nursery plants are grown in California and Florida.

Strawberries are especially vulnerable to soil-borne pathogens, which destroy plants and greatly reduce yield. Since the 1960s, strawberry growers have depended on fumigants like methyl bromide to treat soils before planting berries in an effort to control disease. But methyl bromide has been phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency and will no longer be available after 2017.

“Following the elimination of methyl bromide fumigation, strawberry growers are under greater economic pressures, and there is an urgent need for improved, disease-resistant strawberry varieties that will thrive without fumigation,” Knapp said.

Knapp will head a team of scientists from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and the University of Florida.

Together, researchers will identify and manage pathogen threats, mine elite and wild genetic resources to find natural sources of resistance to pathogens, and accelerate the development of public varieties resistant to a broad spectrum of disease and other pests.

“Strawberry growers are faced with the need to deliver high-quality fruit to consumers year-round, while protecting the environment, fostering economic growth in their communities and coping with profound changes in production practices,” Knapp said. “We look forward to collaborating with our industry partners through research, agricultural extension and education to help them reach those goals.”

UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program

During six decades, the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program has developed more than 30 patented varieties, made strawberries a year-round crop in California and boosted strawberry yield from just 6 tons per acre in the 1950s to 30 tons per acre today.

Knapp took over directorship of the program in 2015. He and his team are working to develop short-day and day-neutral strawberry varieties; studying the genetics of disease-resistance, fruit quality and photoperiod response; and applying genomic techniques to make traditional strawberry breeding more efficient. They have 10 public varieties in the pipeline and plan to release one or two new strawberry varieties later this year.

Initiative collaborators

The grant is funded by USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Collaborators from UC Davis include agricultural economist Rachael Goodhue, plant pathologist Thomas Gordon, and plant scientists Julia Harshman and Thomas Poorten.

Other key collaborators are Oleg Daugovish with UC Agricultural and Natural Resources; Alexander Putman at UC Riverside; Julie Guthman at UC Santa Cruz; Gerald Holmes and Kelly Ivors, both at Cal Poly; and Seonghee Lee, Natália Peres and Vance Whitaker, all of the University of Florida.
Published in Research
August 28, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – When Josh Whitehead and Caroline Pilon started selling homemade kimchi at the Guelph Farmers’ Market about 12 years ago, they were simply doing something they loved.

Word spread about their Korean-style fermented sauerkraut and their business quickly grew.

“We stumbled into making food for the retail market,” said Whitehead, co-founder of Green Table Foods together with his wife Caroline. “We didn’t set out to try and change trends. I’d been making kimchi since I was about 15 years old, and we just wanted to make something we loved.”

Their first big customer was the Ontario Natural Food Co-op, looking for a private label to manufacture organic sauerkraut. They formulated three recipes that fit the organization’s requirement for 100 per cent organic and 100 per cent Ontario, and started manufacturing in 2009.

Kimchi and the other fermented vegetables may be newer foods for North Americans, but according to Whitehead, it is one of the oldest food categories in existence. No cooking is used to produce their products, retaining more of the vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants of the raw ingredients and Green Table Foods work with a wild fermentation process.

“We use a slower fermentation method that uses the ambient bacteria that are naturally found on vegetables to create our products,” Whitehead said. “The flavours in the finished product reflect where the vegetables came from. It’s like wine that way.”

Fermented products also retain the probiotics and enzymes that occur in the vegetables, often lost in the cooking process.

“When you cook cabbage to make sauerkraut, compared to fermenting it, you cook out all the probiotics, including much of the Vitamin C and enzymes that are vital for digestion,” he said.

From the initial product line of organic kimchi, organic sauerkraut and kale kimchi, Green Table Foods added five new products about a year ago with matching funds through the Bioenterprise Enterprise Seed Fund.

This allowed them to formulate, develop, test, label and launch five new fermented vegetables products in September 2016.

While Green Table Foods started out just making something they love, they’ve built a business that also supports their local suppliers. They’ve consciously set out to source vegetables from local farmers to build a sustainable business that creates economies of scale for their suppliers, and operate a carbon neutral business.

“It’s really important to us to build relationships with our growers, and help incentivize them to be able to provide the products we need all year,” Whitehead said.

Green Table Foods offers eight fermented vegetable products including carrots, cabbage, beets and tomato salsa – manufactured at their Guelph, Ontario federally registered plant – and marketed at 800 retail locations across Canada.

They are now looking at exporting their fermented vegetables to the Asian Pacific region, formulating a product for people living in radioactive zones that require additional dietary iodine, and sending products into space.

“I would love to collaborate to provide living, fermented Canadian food for astronauts that would be a much better nutritional option than dehydrated food,” Whitehead said.
Published in Profiles
August 16, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Canadian fruit growers need the best varieties of plants to be successful. In the case of Canadian strawberry growers, they grow the best varieties of plants, which foreign buyers demand. The import and export of fruit plants, however, must go through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to test for potentially devastating plant viruses. Currently, this testing and quarantine process takes an average of three years to complete, significantly hampering the speed of trade.

Today, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced that the CFIA will lead two projects worth $500,000 that use new DNA-based technologies to reduce the quarantine testing time, helping to boost trade and economic competitiveness in the $240 million Canadian fruit tree industry.

"Together with provincial partners and industry, our government is making the investments in innovative science that enables agriculture to be a leading growth sector of Canada's economy. Together we can help meet the world's growing demand for high-quality, sustainable food and help grow our middle class," Minister MacAulay, said. 

The first project will dramatically shorten the testing period of seeds, cuttings and bulbs imported into Canada to grow new varieties of plants. With this funding, scientists will use DNA technology to test for all viruses associated with imported plants to get an early indication of any plant diseases present. This approach could reduce the quarantine testing time by up to two and a half years.

The second project streamlines the testing of strawberry plants. Traditionally, multiple tests for viruses are required before exporting strawberry plants to foreign markets. This project will test for multiple viruses in one single test, dramatically reducing the time and cost to get plants to market.

Funding for these projects is provided through a partnership between the CFIA, Genome British Columbia, Summerland Varieties Corporation, Phyto Diagnostics, the British Columbia Cherry Association, and Vineland Research and Innovations Centre.

"Canadian import/export markets will be stronger and more competitive because of these genomics-based tools. Early detection of pathogens and viruses is a vital outcome of genomics and it is being applied across many key economic sectors." Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Genome British Columbia said. 
Published in Fruit
August 14, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Farm Management Canada is seeking to honour individuals or groups with the 2017 Wilson Loree Award.

This prestigious award was established over fifteen years ago, to honour those that have made an extraordinary contribution to developing and promoting new and positive change in agricultural business management practices and expertise in Canada.

FMC encourages the nomination of individuals or groups that:
  • Have made significant contributions in the area of business management regionally or nationally;
  • Have demonstrated innovation in areas such as turning research into practical management tools, adapting best practices from other sectors to agriculture, and finding new ways to deliver training, information and resources to farm managers;
  • Have served as a role model and a mentor to colleagues, partners and clients, inspiring them to achieve their full potential;
  • Have demonstrated the ability to network and develop partnerships to include others in furthering the shared goals and vision of the agriculture industry
Nominations are required by October 13, 2017. FMC Staff and Board members are not eligible for the award. The winner will be revealed during the Agricultural Excellence Conference on Wednesday November 22nd. All are welcome to attend.
Published in Business & Policy
July 31, 2017, Milton, Ont. - It’s no secret — the lavender plant provides a bouquet of benefits. The fields are stunning, the blooms aromatic, and it has proven itself to be a versatile remedy for centuries, with oils rich in health benefits.

So it’s really no surprise that the prized plant isn’t so bad for agri-tourism too.

With about 40,000 plants, Terre Bleu Lavender Farm near Milton in Halton Region is now the largest lavender farm in Ontario. Their vast fragrant fields, handmade natural products, and charming open-air events bring heaps of visitors out year after year. And they’re only getting busier. (On some weekends now, they even reach capacity.) READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
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