This editorial is brought to you by… some celery sticks and mini-cucumbers. Yes, I’m being fuelled through my morning writing session today (April 5) by imported celery matched with homegrown cukes. On another morning this week, it might be imported mini-carrots and domestic grape tomatoes. Good things do indeed come in small packages. (More proof? I’m only 5’6”… just don’t ask about my weight.)
In early March, I purchased Ontario-grown lettuce at my local farmers’ market, well out of the traditional field-grown season. It was contained within a plastic bag with the rootball immersed in water. The vendor said it was grown about a 45-minute drive away, and that it should be good for about two weeks, provided I didn’t allow the rootball “sack” to dry out. (He was right, and I didn’t have to add any water.)
Eating healthier throughout the year is important, and greenhouse produce offers Canadians the assurance that we need not rely on imported veggies that don’t always survive the trip unblemished/unscathed. Locally grown produce is always fresher. There may be a metre of snow on the ground, but we can still buy day-old (maybe two days, tops) tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers virtually year-round.
Last fall, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) launched its Greenhouse Grows Program, an initiative to bring the importance Ontario greenhouses and nutrition into the classroom. “We are currently developing curriculum and an educational video that will eventually be used provincewide to complement the Greenhouse Grows program,” said OGVG marketing coordinator Laura Brinkmann. “We want to get students to start thinking about greenhouses and the impact that everyday choices have on their health and nutrition.”
The U.S. knows the importance of extended-season vegetable production. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced a $2 million grant to The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centre to improve disease control and food safety in the country’s multi-million dollar greenhouse tomato industry. Nearly 40 per cent of all fresh tomatoes sold in American supermarkets are greenhouse-grown. It’s clear Washington wants to encourage more U.S. production. (More on this announcement is included in a Jan. 21, 2011, posting on our website at www.greenhousecanada.com.)
“Greenhouse tomato producers list diseases as the highest risk factor to their productivity and profitability,” said Sally Miller, a vegetable pathologist with OARDC and Ohio State University Extension, and the project’s principal investigator. “This grant will allow us to look at the systems currently in place and make recommendations for improvements.”
Mini-vegetable production is increasing in Canadian greenhouses, and for good reason. These are perfect snacking tools, and Canadians want access to healthier foods in convenient packaging, whether it’s for school lunch bags, purses or briefcases.
Veggies are low in calories and chock full of nutrients and vitamins. They fill you up, not out. They taste good and are much cheaper than chocolate bars or bags of chips.
Now, if we could just grow celery and carrots indoors, we’d have all our snacking needs met year-round.