From the Editor: July 2011

June 20, 2011
Written by
Organic vegetable production is still quite limited in Canada. Is it something more growers should consider?

There are a number of small growers tapping local niche markets across Canada, especially at farmers’ markets. There are also some major players serving much larger markets.

Les Serres Sagami is the largest organic greenhouse tomato producer in Quebec, recently opening its new 1.7 hectare range. This is the first stage of a three-phase project. “Here, we feed the soil and the soil feeds the plant,” explains André Michaud, head of development and marketing with the company.

Origin Organic Farms of British Columbia has 33 acres of organic greenhouse “OriginO” tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s been growing organically since 2005, and has won numerous awards over the years. The company was named, “Canadian Exporter of the Year Award,” in 2008, and received a Canadian Agri-Food Award of Excellence in 2006.

According to the U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs 2010 tracking study, some 41 per cent of parents surveyed said they were buying more organic products, up significantlly from 31 per cent a year earlier.

On this side of the border, retail sales of “certified organic” food were worth more than $1 billion in 2006. Supermarket sales of organic food grew by 28 per cent from 2005 to 2006. Direct sales of organic produce at farmers’ markets in 2006 was at least $50 million.

The Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada (OACC) reports demand for organic food has been growing at a rate of 15 to 20 per cent annually.

Researchers participating in Canada’s Organic Science Cluster are now working on improving organic production systems for greenhouse tomatoes. The goal is to achieve more efficient use of irrigation and fertilization systems, while reducing the nutrient runoff.

And it’s not just food grown organically that’s attracting attention.

What’s the market for organic flowers? We’ll soon find out, all courtesy of research underway in Quebec.

Researchers from Université Laval in St-Foy, Québec, along with scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Horticulture/Research and Development Centre in Quebec City, are working with greenhouse industry stakeholders to develop a sustainable, organic growing system for greenhouse ornamental cuttings and potted plants.

“The final facet of research will compare the economics and environmental footprint of an organic ornamental production system with that of a conventional greenhouse growing system,” the OACC explains.

The organic market is small, but definitely growing. It shouldn’t be ignored, as traditional markets are full with suppliers offering the same basic range of products.

Niche markets are loyal and will pay a premium price for such products. They’re not for everyone, but they’re still showing potential to grow.

Have you thought about organic crops? More importantly, can you afford not to study their potential?

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