Despite heat and lack of rainfall, Ontario’s tomato crop thrives
Many tomato growers in Ontario are thankful for a strong-yielding harvest this year. Despite the recent heat wave and lack of rainfall, the current tomato crop could be better than last year’s harvest, according to local sources in early October. Dresden farmer and a past chair of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Phil Richards said the quality of the region’s tomatoes have been very good, although the recent heat wave has had some impact on local fields. “We thought we were too dry, but tomatoes like dry weather,” he said. “That's one of the main reasons for the quality.”
Yields for local tomato growers have varied between farms, he said, but overall quality and yields will probably turn out better than last year. “It's pretty amazing how the yields have been without that much rain,” he observed.
Kim Cooper, the agricultural specialist for Chatham-Kent's economic development department, said yields and especially quality have turned out well this year. “I think the processors were very happy with the quality this year,” he said. “I think farmers kind of hope for around 45 short tons to the acre (101 metric tonnes per hectare).” Cooper added he has heard of some tomato farms with more than 50 tons to the acre (113 metric T per hectare) this season, but some may have lower numbers.
Tomatoes are an important crop for Chatham-Kent. The municipality recorded 6,751 harvested acres (2,730 ha) of tomatoes in 2015. That accounted for 55.3% of all tomato harvesting areas (about 12,200 acres, or 4,938 ha) in the province, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Essex County was next with 3,404 acres (1,377 ha) or 27.9% of tomato areas in Ontario.
Chatham-Kent has three tomato processors – ConAgra Foods in Dresden, Harvest Pac Products in Chatham and Weil's Food Processing in Wheatley.
On 29 September, Richards said it was his understanding one of the processors would be closing to farmers that day, while the other two would stop accepting tomatoes on approximately Thanksgiving (9 October in Canada). “I'm not sure if they're going to get all the crops through the door or if there will be some tomatoes that will be excess this year,” said Richards.
Ontario vegetable board elections
A few days earlier, it was reported that candidates were scarce to non-existent for OPVG directorships. Ontario’s 450-odd processing vegetable growers have put up just three people to fill four open spots on the board of their marketing organization. The OPVG’s new general manager, Cathy Lennon, said the organization “will look into the next steps necessary in order to find a director to fill this empty position.”
Sources: Ontario regional press
Some complementary data
Evolution of quantities processed in Canada