The Quebec Produce Growers Association has commissioned a survey this summer to determine which specialty vegetables could be grown locally.
With the province’s supermarkets importing more exotic vegetables and a rise in speciality stores run by immigrants from around the world, now’s the time to jump on the bandwagon, said executive director Andre Plante.
“We don’t have a choice,” Plante said. “If our growers want a better price, we have to develop more niche products.”
The survey, expected to cost $50,000 to $75,000 with government help, will first determine where the province’s immigrants come from, what they buy and what they like to eat.
Once that’s done, the association will ask the federal government to invest in crop trials in 2013-14, so researchers can verify that items identified as a priority will thrive in Quebec’s cool climate and short growing season.
Plante said the QPGA will also work with the Vineland Research and Innovation Center, located in Ontario’s Niagara region.
Vineland has already collected a great deal of research on ethnic preferences and worked with growers to bring items, such as an Indian squash, to market.
In Quebec, growers such as Julie Nichols, president of Mont St. Hilaire, Quebec-based Organzo, already produce and distribute Asian vegetables throughout North America.
“If you don’t know exactly what variety people want, how it should taste and when it should be harvested, growers take a huge risk,” Plante said.