Greenhouse sector targets southern U.S.

DRESDEN, Ont. — Ontario’s greenhouse vegetable growers plan to go head-to-head with field-grown production in the southern United States.

They’ll have close to $350,000 to work with, half of which is a grant through the Growing Forward II program.

Ontario agriculture Jeff Leal and federal agriculture minister Lawrence McAulay announced the deal March 11 in Leamington, Ont.

“When you go into grocery stores here in Ontario, you see greenhouse products all the time. It’s not the same down there,” said Rick Seguin, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers.

“I visited a number of supermarkets in Florida. With cucumbers, for instance, you can see a huge area dedicated to field cucumbers but just a small area for the kind of seedless cucumbers we produce.”

The vegetable growers association plans to educate grocery retailers in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi in how to present and better manage greenhouse produce, Seguin said.

Peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers all need to be stored at different temperatures to maximize their shelf life, he said.

It’s also important to place the greenhouse produce in the right location in stores. For example, peppers shouldn’t be located next to vegetables such as lettuce that are misted.

Seguin said Canadian grocers and those in the northeastern and north-central U.S. states are al-ready familiar with the protocols.

Fausto Amicone with Amco Produce in Leamington applauded the marketing effort.

“Building market share is an expensive proposition. It’s not something we can do on our own,” he said.

The greenhouse industry has the advantage of having a consistent supply of quality produce. It doesn’t face the weather uncertainties common in field production.

Amicone said greenhouse produce is affordable but can be more expensive than field produce.

“When consumers know they can get a better product, they will spend their money on it,” he said.

There are now more than 2,500 acres of greenhouse vegetable production in Ontario.

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