About 100 garlic growers gathered for the Garlic Growers Association of Ontario’s (GGAO) annual field day event. There were growers from a number of areas including, Timmins and even a grower from south of the border. It was an impressive showing, especially as garlic is considered a small crop in the province. Currently, only about 1000 acres is grown in Ontario, but the momentum for locally grown garlic is building among consumers and those who want to grow it.
“We’re starting with some enthusiasm with a new Board,” said Joann Chechalk, president of GGAO.
Checkalk is the first woman in history to lead the organization and sees great potential for the crop. She says the value-added component for garlic is huge.
This is one of the reasons why the field day tour began at The Garlic Box in Hensall, Ontario. The family-run business grows, develops and manufactures premium foods using local garlic, processing more than 50,000lbs of garlic per year. As the tour was occurring, staff were packaging their award-winning Garlic Steak Splash. In 2013, the Garlic Box won a Premier's Award for Agri-food Innovation Excellence for their innovation of IQF garlic cloves.
Another portion of the tour included a visit to Van Raay Farms in Dashwood. At this stop, discussions included agronomy and the mechanization of garlic production.
One of the presenters, Michael Celetti, from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, shared insight into some of the common diseases facing garlic growers. He identified stem and bulb nematode as the top disease for growers.
Celetti stressed that if growers want to see the industry move forward, that an investment in a clean seed program will be crucial, noting that competitors like Spain and France already have programs of their own.
The field day also included a locally inspired lunch featuring pork supplied by the Van Raays and a chocolate cake made with local garlic. The day ended examining the 35-acre garlic field planted by the Van Raays and browsing the equipment used by the family to plant the crop.
Watch The Grower online for a story about the Van Raays – new to the garlic business, but not new to farming.