For Ontario’s 85 asparagus farmers, it’s been a late spring. Normally May 5 is a target date for first harvest by many of the province’s asparagus growers, but this event has been pushed back at least five days and possibly more, according to Bernie Solymár, executive director, Asparagus Farmers of Ontario.
“I’m guesstimating that first shipments to retailers can be expected week of May 14,” says Solymár. “Stalks are just starting to emerge in the odd site. Warmer, double-digit temperatures at night are definitely helping.”
Competing jurisdictions such as New Jersey and Michigan have been late as well. Washington state is harvesting but most of its crop is sold on the west coast.
Once the Ontario crop is in full production, the majority of the crop goes to Ontario consumers but a significant volume is also shipped to the eastern seaboard.
“We anticipate the U.S. market will remain strong as long as the exchange rate is favourable,” says Solymár, “Demand domestically is strong and keeps growing. People always eagerly anticipate the new crop which is Ontario’s first field vegetable crop.”
Foodland Ontario reports that 25 per cent of the province’s grocery stores feature asparagus in special promotions. Asparagus Farmers of Ontario have expanded their own promotions this year with a sign on the heavily-travelled QEW, a retailer contest, asparabus tour for media as well as social media outreach.
“We anticipate consumption will continue to rise in the foreseeable future,” says Solymár.
Ontario’s 3,400 acres of asparagus is expected to support that demand with production of 7,000 to 9,000 pounds per acre.