A group of 21 tender fruit growers has banded together to form the Canadian Fruit Tree Nursery Cooperative in Jordan Station, Ontario. Representing more than half of Ontario’s tender fruit production, the cooperative effort is led by chair George Lepp and nursery manager Gene Penner.
“The impetus for the project is the ongoing challenge for tender fruit growers to source consistent, good-quality trees,” says Penner.
Each of the growers has taken an equity stake in the company which was incorporated in 2016. While the Vineland Growers’ Cooperative spearheaded the initiative, the nursery venture is a separate business renting office and cold storage space from the Jordan Station, Ontario entity. A small crop of peaches, nectarines, plums and pears was planted in 2016 with the first harvest in fall 2017 at a farm near Otterville, Ontario.
“The sandy soil there is fantastic,” says Penner, adding that water supplies are plentiful in the southwestern region moderated by Lake Erie. Another 70,000 seedlings were planted in the fall of 2017.
“We feel strongly that we’re not going to produce on a speculative basis,” says Penner. “We are going to serve our members’ needs first, make sure we have a viable company and then expand production when needed.”
Rootstock has been sourced from the U.S., Europe and western Canada. Sweet and sour cherries, as well as apricots and apples will be added this year.
The cooperative is now accepting deposits for 2020 from members and non-members. There’s no website and no catalogue so the point of contact is Gene Penner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-329-9410.
“I’m optimistic as this project develops,” says Penner. “The key to success is growing a quality product that is well feathered, disease-free and the right size for the grower’s needs.”