LEAMINGTON, Ontario — Greenhouse growers continue to increase their acreage in Ontario, especially along the northern shore of Lake Erie, as they work on fine-tuning their plantings to meet demands.
Acreage for peppers is up at several greenhouses for 2013, with 33% of the province’s greenhouse acres planted in peppers, compared to 29% in 2012, according to the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association.
Mor Gro Farms Inc., home of the SmartyBrand, this year has 10 acres of peppers at what used to be mainly a tomato operation with a few cucumbers, said Tom Trojniak, director of marketing and logistics.
Plantings of mini and specialty peppers are up at several other greenhouses, but bells in green, red, yellow and orange remain the most popular.
Orangeline Farms Ltd., Leamington, expects its first bells of 2013 to be ready beginning the second week of February, said Jordan Kniaziew, vice president of sales and marketing.
Specialty peppers branded as Aurora Bites are among Pure Hot House’s signature products and continue to sell well, said Jamie Moracci, president of the Leamington-based company.
Moracci said he thinks specialty peppers will continue to be a growth area, but he stopped short of predicting pricing points, saying it’s a wait-and-see situation.
Cucumbers see increases
Growers also increased the percentage of acres devoted to cucumbers for the 2013 season. Cukes account for about 31% of greenhouse acres in Ontario this year, compared to 29% in 2012.
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association is devoting time and money specifically to cucumbers this year, general manager George Gilvesy said.
The association launched a campaign early this year to remind retailers and consumers that Ontario greenhouses produce cucumbers year-round.
Further testament to the growing popularity of cukes can be found at Del Fresco Produce Ltd, Kingsville, where new greenhouse acres coming online this year are devoted to cucumbers, president Carl Mastronardi said.
Mastronardi is particularly looking forward to his crop of mini cucumbers and said he is hopeful prices will rebound from last year’s disappointing levels.
At Erie James Ltd., Leamington, co-owner Jim Slater said the market for long European cucumbers continues to expand.
The family-owned company has had good returns on its Cool Cukes mini cucumbers, Slater said, and will continue robust marketing.
Tomatoes still on top
Although cukes and peppers are whittling away at tomatoes’ acreage, tomatoes — which put the region on the produce map — maintain their No. 1 spot with 38% of Ontario’s total greenhouse acres, down from 44% in 2012.
Most growers reported completing their planting by the end of January.
It took three to four days to plant 30 new acres of tomatoes on the vine under glass at Mucci Farm, Kingsville, said Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing.
Tomato harvest could begin the second week of March, depending on when the plants went in, said David DiCiocco, director of DiCiocco Farms.
As for tomato pricing out of the region for 2013, growers and marketers said in late January that it was still too early to tell.
Jim DiMenna, president of JemD Farms, said he believes there is good reason for optimism, though.
DiMenna said Canada came out of last winter with a weak market partly because of weather in other growing regions. He expects prices to be better for Ontario greenhouse tomatoes this year.
DiCiocco and Spano also said they believe prices can continue the upswing of recent weeks after what they said was one of the most challenging price situations in memory last year.