There's a lot of talk and much written these days about "food miles" and eating locally-grown, and preferably organic, produce. Here in southern Ontario, this a real challenge because typical summer weather and climate conditions aren't ideal.
The following is a real eye-opener from Plan B, one of our local organic growers. In their newsletter to customers this week, they addressed the question: "Why is there so little fruit being grown organically in Ontario?"
While the climate in Southern Ontario is warm enough to grow tender fruit crops, the high humidity in summer leads to a high incidence and spreading of fungal diseases on tender fruit crops. To combat these fungal diseases on conventional farms tender fruit crops are sprayed with chemical fungicides as many as 15 times or more each season to keep these diseases at bay and ensure a crop for the farmer. These sprays are why we at Plan B feel the need to provide an organic alternative, but for that alternative to also be local is a bigger challenge.
Most of the certified organic tender fruits you have been getting in your fruit share are grown in arid, semi-desert zones in California where disease pressures are much lower and it is more conducive to organic growing. The cooler and drier weather in more northern parts of the province where we get our organic apples from is also helps lower disease and pest pressures for the farmers there. We also feel that very few local growers are in the position to risk losing their crops as there is little or no financial security in making significant changes to the food system, unless people are guaranteeing their costs and a living wage. Things most of us take for granted, but that's not how it is for farmers in our society.
Why can't we get more farmers in Ontario to grow their fruit organically? We at Plan B Organic Farm began offering the fruit share with hopes that having a good market for local organic fruit would help convince some local growers to convert to organic production. So far we have only been able to find a few farmers who have taken this step, we hope to find more in the future. Our goal is to have everything we handle be local and organic, but this is a goal for us when it comes to fruit, not the reality of where organic agriculture is at right now in Ontario. We want to build this system for the future, if you know of anyone with a fruit farm that's not being used or is retiring please let us know and we will contact them with info about organic production.