Sour cherry trees will be in blossom in May, immune to the world pandemic of COVID-19 virus. Although an uplifting sight, the outstanding question is how they will be harvested in two months. This cover story quotes several horticultural industry leaders on what’s happening now and potential paths forward.
Seasonal agricultural workers such as Jamaican Willy Green are crucial to the 2020 growing season. The federal government is providing exemptions to the travel ban however logistics are still to be announced.
Dr. Mary Ruth McDonald has mentored dozens of students as professor of plant agriculture, University of Guelph. Equally at home in the field, she’s working with Master’s student Alexandra Dacey, documenting carrot weevil found in carrot trials at the Muck Crops Research Station in Bradford, Ontario.
Seedless watermelon is only one of the specialties carried at Howe Family Farm Market near Aylmer, Ontario. Kevin Howe says ground cherries and canary melons also pique the interest of consumers. The on-farm market has been so successful that the family has opened another location south of London Ontario.
Bill George Jr. and his son Will have tasted the promise of Icewine exports to China. With geopolitical tensions in 2019, the risks of diversifying into markets abroad have been amplified. It’s too early to know if the recent U.S-China deal will help or hinder.
Fourth-generation grower Kyle Horlings is questioning the way things have always been done. Since 2015, he’s taken about 10 acres of carrots and onions out of production every year for restorative cover plantings. His experiments near King, Ontario garnered him the Healthy Soil Award from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority in November.
Oleen Smethurst is known for her quest for flavour. As assistant vice-president, general merchandise manager for produce, Costco Canada, she jets all over the world from Berlin to Bogotá, meeting with growers and seed suppliers. While touring southern Ontario in late August 2019, she visited Martin’s Family Fruit Farm near Waterloo, Ontario.
Quinton Woods, sales and plant operations, Gwillimdale Farms, oversees the second phase of a storage facility near Bradford, Ontario that will be filled with onions and carrots in the fall of 2019.
New packing lines are revolutionizing how tree-ripened tender fruit can be speedily handled and shipped to consumers. The largest peach grower in Ontario, the Tregunno family, installed a Spectrim vision system three years ago at the farm near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Ryan Tregunno stays sharp for 10 weeks as traffic controller in his computer pit above the lines of peaches and nectarines.
Carrot, parsnip and onion grower Doug Van Luyk is one of those in the Holland Marsh who has expanded to 500 acres in both muck and mineral soils with the help of labour-saving technology. Here, his son Bradley stands on top of a self-propelled, two-row carrot harvester near Newmarket, Ontario. Photo by Glenn Lowson.