Produce market changes

The start of the planting season is just weeks away and farmers are growing all the fresh produce that we like to eat. But the experts at the Vineland research centre are working on a project to convince consumers and growers to look beyond the corn and tomato stalks.

Every year about 220 000 immigrants come to Canada bringing with them their traditions and tastes from China, South Asia, the Caribbean. In the GTA alone they spend about $61 million on fresh produce every month and almost all of it imported.

“It’s a market supplied currently by producer offshore and yet we can grow in Canada” says Michael Brownbridge from Vineland Research & Innovation Centre and that’s what researchers involved in the “world crop project” are hoping to convince local growers.

In the Vineland greenhouses they’ve been growing Asian long eggplant and Indian round eggplant. In the past 7 years, the demand for okra has jumped 50%. The net return for long eggplant is about $3 000 an acre. Commisso’s Fresh Foods in Niagara Falls is responding to consumers looking for more exotic foods. These are customers who tried something on vacation or offshore workers who want a taste of home.

Vineland research is hoping that stores like Commisso’s will soon be able to bring products in from a local farmers field instead of importing them.