Diversifying Vegetable Production in Ontario

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Author: Tammara Soma

Posted: September 1, 2010

Categories: economic development / News from Sustain Ontario

On Thursday, August 19th 2010, an eager group of Torontonians young and old from all around the world boarded a school bus and had the wonderful opportunity to observe the work being done at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. The group also had the opportunity to get a taste of the amazing ethnic produce all grown in Ontario.

Following a four year initiative led by Peter Mitchell at the University of Guelph’s Centre for Land and Water Stewardship, The Stop Community Food Centre, the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and the Greenbelt Foundation have been working on a project to grow foods tailored towards the growing demand for ethnic food in the Greater Toronto Area.

From fuzzy melons and okra, to white eggplants and callaloo, a variety of vegetables that have been traditionally imported can actually be successfully grown in Southern Ontario. When this innovative program is ready to be launched and made public, this creative project may increase employment opportunities in the field of agriculture in Ontario and feed the growing demand for this hard to find produce locally.

Peter Mitchell, one of the organizers of the tour and leader of the initiative brought 100 pounds of Red Melba heirloom apples from his orchard to stave off hunger as the group listened to a presentation by Ahmed Bilal, Lead Researcher of the Vineland Research Innovation Centre.  A delicious lunch made by Fete Kimpiobi of the Solidarite des Femmes Immigrantes Francophones du Niagara was devoured instantly.

Meanwhile, at the Stop Green Barn in Toronto, the participants of the Global Roots Gardening program have positively embraced the collaboration between the two projects. The group of seniors and youths coming from the Philippines, Poland, India, Somalia and other parts of the world have the opportunity to provide feedback to Vineland and contribute to the research.  The Global Roots program, a cross collaboration between The Stop and Culture Link , is a great example of an inter-generational project that successfully integrates diversity, and an environment of inclusion.

Sustain Ontario’s Diversity working group which was formed at the Bring Food Home Conference in March of 2010 identified the need for more inclusivity in the food movement as well as the integration of diverse opinions. To fulfil this mandate, Sustain Ontario’s Food Systems Planner Tammara Soma who is originally from Indonesia will be spending one day a week with the group to support the program and help global roots gardeners maintain their diverse gardens. In addition, Sustain Ontario hopes to identify best practices from the program that may be adopted by other food organizations.