From the Editor: February 2013

February 12, 2013
Written by
There’s room for everyone in the “Buy Local” food movement. Even flower growers can get in on the act.

As a regular visitor to my local farmers’ market, I’ve seen how important the “locally grown” movement is becoming. Vendors will sometimes include the name of the farm supplying them with produce, if they’re not growing it themselves.

Provincial governments have long been promoting “locally grown” campaigns, encouraging consumers to support producers.

The Dine Alberta project, as one example, attracted 117 restaurants last year. “Alberta’s best chefs, at restaurants, bistros, catered food events, B&B’s and meal preparation establishments, are using Alberta’s best homegrown foods to create unforgettable meals all year round,” notes the website.

Foodland Ontario is great at promoting locally grown (or raised) foods, with greenhouse vegetables earning their share of attention.

The Local Food Hero Award of Select Nova Scotia recognizes members of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS) who have gone to exceptional lengths to support local producers.

Lufa Farms, which already operates one rooftop greenhouse in downtown Montreal, has plans for two more projects in urban settings. Lufa’s prime markets are located quite close to its production facilities – it doesn’t get much more locally grown than that.

British Columbia, the birthplace of the 100-Mile Diet, has its “Get Local” campaign. 

So where do flower growers fit in? A pair of leading U.S. greenhouse managers have a suggestion for them.
Try vegetables.

Mike Gooder, of Plantpeddler (Cresco, Iowa), and Jeff Mast, of Banner Greenhouses (Nebo, North Carolina), led a discussion of “Filling the Seasonal Gaps: Locally Grown Veggies and Alternative Crops” during the Ohio Short Course.

It was one of the best-attended sessions of the conference, a reflection of grower interest.

The main message from the two veteran managers was that growers should not rush into it. There’s a lot to research and prepare for, especially with respect to food safety protocols and finding the most profitable crops.

The process can be quite daunting and time-consuming.

Yet at the same time, it’s an opportunity that deserves consideration.

Growers won’t “get rich” with these extra crops, but growing them will help distribute overhead costs over the year. It provides year-round employment for staff. “If at best you only break even on the vegetables,” said Mast, “it makes the spring (flower) crop more profitable.”

It’s important to keep things simple. “Find veggies and production methods that fit your operation.” Leafy greens seem to work best in short-term container production, whereas tomatoes can be a headache. “You have to grow a premium product that commands top prices,” the speakers noted. “It must be marketed as local and fresh.”

Buy Local can be a great market opportunity. It’s a consumer-driven movement and it’s gathering momentum.

And it’s something more growers – vegetable and ornamental – can tap into, with the right amount of
preparation and homework.

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