Greenhouse technology could see Ontario strawberry farmers plug in for year-round production

By Lisa McLean for Farm & Food Care

strawberries(Thamesville) – Ontario strawberry farmers have a new way to grow strawberries, thanks to an innovative production method from a Southwestern Ontario nursery. The good news? If the system takes root, it could help lead to a year-round growing season for local Ontario strawberries.

Sandra Carther, owner of Thamesville-based Carther Plants began developing a new nursery system for strawberry plants in 2009. The system produces “plug plants” or plants that are grown in cell packs that are ready for transplant into the ground or a greenhouse.

Traditional strawberry nurseries produce “bare root” plants, which are grown outside. These plants are grown in the field and harvested in the fall, and then stored through the winter. Strawberry farmers in Ontario have traditionally planted dormant, frozen bare root plants each spring. Continue reading

Local pickled bean makers snap up Premier’s Award

Product shot Extreme BeanBy Lilian Schaer

The new pickle is a bean, says pickled bean aficionado Steve McVicker.

He’s one half of Matt & Steve’s, a Mississauga-based company that just won a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation for their popular “Extreme Bean” Caesar garnish.

McVicker and business partner Matt Larochelle used to tend bar together and felt that the many Caesars they were mixing needed a better garnish than the traditional, bland celery stick that everyone was using.

Their search for a vegetable long enough to stick out the top of a 12-inch glass led them to the Kentucky Flat Bean, which is longer, sweeter, and crunchier than the average green bean. The two were also roommates at the time, and they cooked up their first batches of pickled beans in their 600 sq. ft. rented Mississauga condo using instructions provided by Larochelle’s mother.

“We were a bit like mad scientists with hand me down pots and adding various spices to jars,” laughs McVicker. “We weren’t very good at it in the beginning, but when we took some to work to try, they were pretty good so we scraped together some money to get started.” Continue reading

Farming’s the second career for Six Nations innovator

By Lilian Schaer for Farm & Food Care

(Ohsweken) – Barry Hill calls farming his second life. After all, it was only meant to be a stress reliever from his work as an engineer.

Barry Hill stands in front of one of his corn fields in the fall of 2014

Barry Hill stands in front of one of his corn fields in the fall of 2014

What started with a small garden beside a cabin on the Six Nations Reserve near Ohsweken, Ontario and the region’s first soybean crop in the late 1970s eventually evolved into a 2,600 acre farming business growing corn, wheat and soybeans.

“I was told never to be a farmer, so I went off to be an engineer, but you can’t get farming out of the boy,” he chuckles. “I bought the cabin here instead of a cottage in Muskoka and started gardening. I won a vegetable prize that year, but also realized I can grow 40 acres of wheat in the time it takes me to garden.”

And so began, on the home farm where his dad farmed after World War II, Barry Hill’s second career as a farmer and innovator, farm leader and community champion, and advocate for Ontario’s native farmers.

In addition to his three main crops, Hill is always keen to try something new – he successfully no-tilled alfalfa into bean stubble and sold hay for a few years, planted organic soybeans and spelt. Continue reading

Taking initiative to protect the environment and build the soil

By Treena Hein

John and Grace Kinghorn are shown with two of their environmental initiatives – a double walled fuel tank and some of the trees they’ve planted on their farm.

John and Grace Kinghorn are shown with two of their environmental initiatives – a double walled fuel tank and some of the trees they’ve planted on their farm.

(Woodville) – John Kinghorn grew up with a strong love of the land, and it was that love which called him back to make concrete improvements to his farm and the surrounding area after a very successful career off-farm.

Kinghorn’s ancestral beef and crop operation is located near Woodville, Ontario. He farms about 250 acres with his wife Grace of 52 years. John’s great-grandfather settled the land, and his father continued the tradition. When John was ready to enter the workforce however, he was attracted to an education/work program at General Motors in Oshawa. “Over the years, I was able to be involved in many innovative new ideas and had the opportunity to travel extensively in North America and Europe to explore these ideas and be involved in implementation of some of them,” he recalls. “It was 35 years of a fairy-tale ride in the industrial world for a farm boy.” Kinghorn retired early at the executive level, as Operations Manager of the Oshawa Truck Plant. Continue reading

Diversity, innovation and teamwork are the keys to long-term success

By Treena Hein

Brothers (from left) Steve, Glenn and Tom Barrie receive an honour from the Clarington Board of Trade

Brothers (from left) Steve, Glenn and Tom Barrie receive an honour from the Clarington Board of Trade

(Bowmanville) – Brothers Tom, Stephen and Glenn Barrie work well as a team, and like any successful team, they share a similar outlook. They’ve always worked to have their family farm (called Terwidlen Farms, located between Bowmanville, Orono and Newcastle) stay sustainable – both in terms of looking after the land and in terms of long-term profitability. Continue reading

Young couple excited by the challenge of farming

By Melanie Epp

Sarah Biancucci and Vince Tkaczuk

Sarah Biancucci and Vince Tkaczuk

Vince Tkaczuk and Sarah Biancucci are the proud new owners of a small, seven-acre farm south of Mount Forest. They bought the property in June of 2013, and in the process moved one step closer to realizing their dream of becoming farmers. The two have big plans for the property they’re now calling Bell’s Edge Farm.

As their slogan, ‘Innovation and Cultivation,’ says, the goal is to farm intensively, but as sustainably as possible. Starting a new farm from nothing comes with its challenges but as the couple’s story shows, determination and drive prevails. Continue reading

Manure application – new technology from the old world

by Matt McIntosh, Farm & Food Care

The European-style dribble bar applies manure in a wide pattern low to the ground

The European-style dribble bar applies manure in a wide pattern low to the ground

Manure plays a vital role in maintaining soil health, but getting the right amount of manure to the right places at the right times can be challenging, time consuming and expensive. Growers in parts of Europe have been under intense pressure to develop equipment that strikes the right balance between environmentally responsible placement and maintaining application rates that allow the farmer to get the manure onto their fields economically. Continue reading

Ontario’s locally grown citrus

By Lilian Schaer

Marlene Wynnyk (left) and her sister Sandra in the orchard

Marlene Wynnyk (left) and her sister Sandra in the orchard

Teeswater ON – You could be in a citrus grove as you stroll amongst swaying branches chock full of brightly coloured orange fruit – but you know you can’t be since you’re in Ontario, a province not known for its citrus-growing climate.

What you’re seeing is sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L), a unique and hard-to-find superfruit billed as “Ontario’s 100 mile citrus crop”. Continue reading

Innovative collaboration drives greenhouse project

By Blair Andrews, Farm & Food Care

Greg Devries, president of Truly Green Farms, displays tomatoes-on-the-vine being grown in the company’s greenhouse in Chatham.

Greg Devries, a farmer from Chatham-Kent, is hoping to use innovation and a unique partnership to redefine the greenhouse vegetable industry. If successful, his efforts could also get people to think about tomatoes in a “greener” way.

Devries is the president of Truly Green Farms, a company that is gradually building a 90-acre greenhouse complex across the road from the GreenField Ethanol plant in Chatham.

In a first for North America, the greenhouse operation will be using carbon dioxide (CO2) and low-grade, waste heat from the ethanol plant to help grow the tomatoes. The concept is to take a greenhouse gas like CO2 that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere, and use it to produce a healthy food product. Continue reading

Retirement? Nuts to that

By Andi McKillop, Farm & Food Care

Nathan Crocker holds a tray of heartnuts.

(Maidstone) – It started as an idea for retirement. At a meeting featuring a prominent economist, Olga Crocker paid attention when an audience member asked what to do to keep active in retirement. Now Olga and her son Nathan have partnered in farming and processing nuts in southern Ontario.

“We had 27 acres and thought we’d start a business,” explains Nathan. “Mom suggested a nut farm and the economist thought it was a good idea. The economist was Stephen Harper before he was anybody – and I think he was referring to three or four trees – not 2000.” Continue reading