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Spanning the East

Major metro areas, diverse demand, and turning challenges into opportunities
MS_Spanning the East

To meet the ongoing demand for multicultural cuisine, the province’s farmers and researchers have joined forces to explore which types of ethnic varieties can be successfully grown and marketed in Ontario. This includes everything from round eggplant, tomatillos, bottle gourds, and daikon radishes to red carrots, maca root, okra, Asian eggplant, and yard long beans.

Protected growing
The other side to Ontario’s production revolves around Leamington’s greenhouses, responsible for two-thirds of Canada’s vegetable output.

“The greenhouse sector in Ontario has historically been a major player in the production of cucumbers and tomatoes,” confirms John Russell, president of J.E. Russell Produce Limited in Toronto. “In recent years, we’ve seen the introduction of several new commodities including various lettuce greens, microgreens, and strawberries.”

Another item grown in a protected environment is mushrooms. It may surprise some to know Ontario is a major producer, responsible for more than half of Canada’s total output. It’s good news indeed for wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants as the fungal treat continues to gain popularity, as both an add-in to numerous dishes, an entrée, or meat substitute.

“Our mushroom-growing industry in Ontario is world class,” enthuses Russell.

Terminal velocity
At the heart of the province’s produce trade is the popular Ontario Food Terminal (OFT), moving more than 1 million tons of produce and horticultural products each year

Over the last several years, the OFT has undergone major renovation and expansion projects as merchants go about their business. The end result, of course, is good for buyers and sellers alike—such as enclosing loading docks to protect against the weather and enhance worker safety.

“The long awaited structural enhancements to the OFT are nearing completion,” confirms Julian Sarraino, vice president of marketing and sales for Fresh Taste Produce Ltd. at the whole-sale market. “The early phases have already created an environment where people can accomplish their daily tasks more efficiently.”

Although it’s known as “La Belle Province” (the Beautiful Province), Quebec is more than just a pretty place. The largest province in Canada, it lays claim to one of the most profitable produce sectors in Canada—bringing in more $3 billion in overall crop receipts for 2016 according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.