By Kim Cooper, Economic Development Officer, Agriculture Specialist for the municipality of Chatham-Kent.
In many articles I’ve written, I have mentioned buying local and buying fresh. I believe most of us realize the importance of buying quality food products for ourselves and our family, as well as the importance of supporting our local producers.
One of the questions that arise from buying local food products – how do we continue to buy local and buy fresh in the winter and early spring, when there are no outdoor crops being grown in Chatham-Kent?
We can buy products such as apples and carrots throughout most of the year. Apples are kept crisp and delicious due to temperature and humidity-controlled storage. For carrots, our producers are using innovative ways to store carrots, and you can buy Ontario carrots under the following brand names: Nature’s Finest Produce, Bolthouse Farms, Farm Fresh, Earth Fresh, and Best of Bradford.
But for other crops, other than our greenhouse peppers and tomatoes, there really are no fresh fruits and vegetables around. But we always have the frozen and canned products available. The Green Giant Company has a “Grown and Packed in Canada” label, along with a red maple leaf in the top right corner of frozen bags of peas, corn, and green and yellow beans.
All of these products are packed by Bonduelle, a French-based processing company that owns three processing facilities in Southwestern Ontario in Tecumseh, Ingersoll, and Strathroy. These facilities are the only processors of these products in Ontario. Many of the Bonduelle products come from Chatham-Kent.
Bonduelle also produces the Arctic Gardens frozen vegetables. This is their own brand. Historically, this was a Quebec-based brand that has ventured into Ontario. If you look on their mixes, they actually state: “Arctic Gardens harvest vegetables in Ontario and Quebec in the surrounding areas: Bedford, (QC), Ingersoll, Strathroy, Tecumseh (ON).”
In addition to peas, corn, and beans, these mixes often include carrots, lima beans, and squash, which are all grown for Bonduelle in Ontario.
Our farmers grow tomatoes for a number of processors in our area, and here are some of those processors and their canned products.
Weil’s Food Products in Wheatley sell under their ‘Stoney Creek’ label.
ConAgra Food Products in Dresden produce their products under the Aylmer, Hunts, and DelMonte labels.
Harvest-Pac in Chatham produce tomato products for the foodservice and commercial sectors under the Harvest-Pac label.
Some of our tomato growers also supply Sunbrite Foods under the Unico and Primo labels.
Some of our tomato growers also supply Thomas Canning under their Utopia label.
In addition to the labels above, mostly all of these processors supply the major food chains and their respective private labels at stores such as: WalMart (Great Value label), Sobeys/Freshco (Compliments label), Shoppers (Everyday Market label), Zehrs/No Frills/Superstore (President’s Choice label), and Metro (Our Best label).
With respect to pickles, we have the VanRoboys family producing jars of various types of pickles under their label “The Pickle Station.”
Dry beans, peas and popcorn produced in Chatham-Kent can also be found on your grocery shelves. There’s nothing better than making a homemade batch of chili, soups and stews to enjoy on those cold winter days. It’s easy to include healthy dry red kidney beans, white beans and peas in all your heirloom recipes. Pre-process your dry beans by soaking overnight, then boil and simmer them for an hour. You can even freeze them to use in your recipes at any time. Find recipes on Pinterest or on the Thompsons Limited website by clicking here.
If you don’t see local foods in your grocery stores, make sure to tell the manager you want to see more local product. On behalf of all our amazing agricultural producers, thanks for your ongoing support of locally grown Chatham-Kent food products.
Think about this – Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.
Just some food for thought.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at www.wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 40 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’