FROM THE EDITOR: January 2008

January 30, 2008
Written by
Niche marketing opportunities.  You could have  people, for the first time ever, getting really fresh produce.
Last month I received a note from a student seeking information on the greenhouse industry in Newfoundland, The infor-mation was needed as part of a paper on the 100-Mile Diet.

I was impressed the student was making the connection between the “local eating” campaign and greenhouses. Just about anything can be grown in greenhouses, provided you have the budget to cover heating and lighting costs.

We’re increasingly hearing about new northern greenhouses. These are opportunities for locals to enjoy fresh vegetables that haven’t been plane and/or truck cargo through much of their post-harvest periods. The Iqaluit Greenhouse Society in Nunavut owns one of Canada’s newest greenhouses in the far north. The goal is to prove the effectiveness of greenhouse production in remote areas. “You could have people, for the first time ever, getting really fresh produce,” says Society president John Lamb.

The Associated Press news service last fall had a great story on the popularity of what some researchers are hyping as a great new holiday plant – edible chili plants. “Watch out, poinsettia growers,” begins the news story. “With their vibrant colours and spicy edible peppers, small pepper plants developed by a New Mexico researcher (Dr. Paul Bosland of New Mexico State University) are turning up the heat on traditional holiday plants in greenhouses and nurseries.”

One U.S. grower has been especially impressed with trialling “NuMex” products, with the plants flying off the shelf of such customers as Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, according to the AP report.

Not that poinsettias are standing pat. A true orange poinsettia was among varieties attracting attention at the Vineland poinsettia trials last fall. ‘Orange Spice’ by Paul Ecke Ranch had great colour and stood out on the bench.

It would be a great U.S. Thanksgiving plant, said one admirer. It would certainly draw attention to any poinsettia display as being something a little out of the ordinary. And it could help extend the season.

One of the new products unveiled at last fall’s HortiFair was the Minimato potted tomato plant. It’s being marketed as both a tasty food and an ornamental houseplant. It should do well in any market. All it requires is a little water and a sunny location to provide up to two months of decoration, cherry tomatoes and a great conversation piece.

The industry is changing. There are tremendous opportunities to grow into new markets and crop alternatives, indeed whole new growing regions and consumer shopping philosophies. The industry at times seems stalled in a rut of growing the same crops, year after year, while the marketplace is begging for something new, and is prepared to pay a premium for it. New and alternative crops deserve more attention in research and marketing.


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