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Vineland, BBFG collaborate on ethnocultural crops


March 19, 2013
By Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

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March 18, 2013, Ripley, Ont – The Bruce Botanical Food Gardens (BBFG) is joining forces with Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) to present a workshop to southwestern Ontario farmers, food wholesalers/retailers and food distribution companies on the potential ethno-cultural crop production may hold for them.

The collaboration between Vineland and the BBFG will start by focusing on three key ethno-cultural food plants – okra and two varieties of eggplant.

According to a recent online consumer study carried out by Vineland’s Consumer Insights and Product Innovation team led by Dr. Isabelle Lesschaeve, there is a huge market potential for these crops. For example, sales of okra across Canada in the growing season (July to Oct) top 24.9 million pounds and are valued at $49.7 million. The study identified 46 per cent of those sales are by Ontario consumers with 36 per cent of Ontario consumption occurring within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) This also represents 64 per cent of sales occurring outside the GTA in areas across the province. The study estimates the need for greater than 1,500 acres of production to meet Ontario demand alone for this one food crop.

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The market for long eggplant was reported to be 21.4 million pounds in-season with 44 per cent of consumption occurring within Ontario with a value of $33.4 million in domestic sales. It was also summarized that consumption in New York and Pennsylvania was higher than in Canada showing opportunity for export.

Michael Brownbridge, PhD., research director, for horticultural production systems with Vineland, says the organization will work with the BBFG to develop the test plots over the coming growing season and deliver a half-day workshop in the fall after farmers have had a chance to observe production on the BBFG site.

“We will be available to the BBFG to mentor them on growing and will support them with research we have at hand on best practices,” he said.

“The workshop will provide background on the production opportunity, crop options and production, available markets etc. We are focusing on okra and round and long eggplant this year as the markets and returns for these crops seem solid.”

“Ethnocultural crops may offer every farmer in our region the opportunity to diversify their crops with a known and growing domestic marketplace,” said Lynne Taylor, president of the BBFG. “Not only does this project hold the potential to address the issues of access to culturally appropriate food of an expanding population in Ontario, an important aspect of food security, it offers opportunity to farmers to become more fully engaged in the local food system. It truly addresses the mandate of our organization.”

Those from the Grey, Bruce, Huron, Perth, and Wellington County interested in participating in the workshop – to be held in late October, early November 2013 – are asked to express their interest now by either emailing ltaylor@bbfg.org or calling 519-396-5719.

The Bruce Botanical Food Gardens will be opening its gates to the site on Park Street in Ripley, Ont., later in 2013.

For details on the project, visit www.bbfg.org.