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Growing success with a niche crop

When Bob and Mary Jane Davis planted their first crop of leeks in 1988, they had no idea where the “green onion on steroids” would take them.
More than 30 years later, on a busy day their Canning Produce Inc. processing facility at Paris, Ont., processes almost four times the total leek crop they grew that first year. They’re now the largest leek grower in Ontario, harvesting 80 acres annually and shipping to three major grocery chains from late July through to March.
Well-considered strategies
It’s the story of a measured, strategic approach that has allowed the Davis family to serve a niche for a single vegetable with relatively flat market demand. Throughout their journey, Bob and Mary Jane have employed their entire family. A love for number crunching, innovation, customer service and a commitment to quality makes growing, packaging and marketing the onion-like vegetable a successful farm business.
Bob and Mary Jane took over the farming operation from Bob’s parents in 1984 when the primary crop was sweet corn, and purchased the farm from them in 1998. The idea of growing leeks emerged when a local grower retired, giving the couple an opportunity to take over a small production contract with a local wholesaler. “In the beginning we started the leek harvest after the sweet corn harvest in late September. Harvest would last one week and everything would be done by hand,” Bob recalls. They already had a cooler for sweet corn so leeks were a good fit for their operation.
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