The Greenbelt Foundation supplements grower investment in Ontario Tender Fruit Growers replant program
By Jackie Clark
The Greenbelt Foundation, with support from the Government of Ontario, is investing over $280,000 to support Ontario Tender Fruit Growers planting 75,000 new trees and 10,000 new vines in the Niagara Region.
The Greenbelt Foundation works “pretty closely with Ontario Tender Fruit Growers and other agricultural organizations in Niagara,” Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation, told Farms.com. The Tender Fruit Growers “made a strong case that this was a good opportunity for re-investment in the trees and vines.”
While the industry is providing the majority of investment in replanting orchards and vines, “our contribution really helps to leverage that investment and I think give some confidence and comfort to the growers themselves,” he explained. “A little bit of investment can lead to a large result.”
The investment is projected to increase fruit production in the region by seven per cent, adding $10 million value and 150 full-time jobs to the sector, according the Sept. 23 release from the Greenbelt Foundation.
“Consumer and retail demand for locally-grown tender fruit continues to grow,” said Phil Tregunno, chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers, in the release.
“Our replant program is immensely popular among growers, who are contributing 70 per cent of overall costs,” he explained. “We are grateful to the Greenbelt Foundation for their ongoing support of our growers and the industry as a whole, which makes an important contribution to Ontario’s rural economy.”
Niagara is a unique growing region, and grape and other tender fruit producers need to be able to invest in new plantings to accommodate “changing consumer preferences, more climate resistant varieties, and other sorts of factors,” McDonnell explained.
Investment in the sector contributes to “the viability of agriculture in the area, the economic benefit to the community but also the larger provincial economy, but also the cultural and historic value,” he added.
“This unique and important agri-food sector is emblematic of what the Greenbelt is intended to do, which is to provide long-term permanent protection so that we can see the sustainment and growth of these unique and highly valuable agri-food and agri-cultural activities,” he said.
Food system supply issues revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic brought local food closer than ever to the hearts and minds of Ontarians.
“People love Niagara,” McDonnell said. “Tender fruit is a critical part of that. Helping to sustain and grow the tender fruit sector is part and parcel to the things that people in Ontario love.”
Also, “from a COVID recovery perspective, we’ve seen a lot of sectors and a lot of industries hit hard. Agriculture and particularly this higher-value agriculture of local fruit and vegetables is this incredible opportunity for Ontario,” he explained.
The Greenbelt contains 750,000 acres of agricultural land and two specialty crop areas, including Niagara.
Investing in the region “is how we make the Greenbelt work for Ontario, and for the people that live and work in the greenbelt,” MacDonnell said. The Foundation works to make the most of “this incredible asset we have, this beautiful, unique landscape.”
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