St. Thomas, Ontario-based Whalls Farms also exports about half of what it and its allied growers produce, said Kevin Butters, president.
“The U.S. is the big market,” he said. “I do ship some overseas, but it’s nothing major.”
Growers typically say the U.S. is their biggest market because it’s the closest.
“We’ve tried some overseas stuff — like Puerto Rico and the islands — but it’s a little harder to adapt to that; it’s a little bit out of our range,” said Steve Chary, president of Oakland, Ontario-based Chary Produce.
Viv Agresti, partner in ATV Farms, Holland Landing, Ontario, said his company exports about 70% of its crops to the U.S., primarily in the Northeast and Southeast.
The company’s diversity — it offers a lengthy roster of onions, carrots, cauliflower, root vegetables and other items – works well with its business plan, Agresti said.
“It suits our situation, no question about it,” he said. “It has its ups and downs, but we’re in a commodity business driven by ups and downs.”
Growers and shippers often look primarily to customers’ needs inside the province in the early part of the deal, said Tony Tomizza, president of Dominion Farm Produce Co. in Bradford, Ontario.
“Once we start, it feeds Ontario,” he said. “There really isn’t enough to export until August or September. The early stuff generally stays within Ontario and Quebec.”
Tomizza said exports probably were in the 20% range over the last few years.
“Nothing is typical, just because it’s such a weather-related world we live in now,” he said.
Tony Moro, Bradford & District Produce, Bradford, said his company has built an export business with carrots.
“We provide carrots to the Toronto market, as well as basically Ontario, and we do export to the U.S., as well as Japan and England,” he said. “The muck soil here is ideal for growing jumbo carrots. They last pretty long and have good shelf life. There’s a big fresh market, but there’s also a lot of processing.”
P. & S. VanBerlo Ltd., Simcoe, Ontario, strives for a balance between export and domestic sales, said Peter VanBerlo, president.
“When you look at where we are in southern Ontario, we are really close to Chicago and New York,” he said. “Produce is harder to truck up there from the Carolinas than it is from here.”
Scott Siemon, president of rutabaga grower-shipper Stovel-Siemon Ltd, Mitchell, Ontario, said he has seen the market for his product shrink.
“It’s a niche market,” he said. “New York City used to take loads, and now they’re down to skids.”
Adding items to his company’s roster isn’t likely, he said.
“At 50, 60 years old, you can’t change,” he said.