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Ontario cherries: fair crop despite decline in production

June 01, 2016

Ontario cherries: fair crop despite decline in production


While overall production has declined in recent years on Ontario cherries for some farms, crops themselves are producing well.

“We expect a really good sour cherry crop,” said Matthew Ecker of Vineland Growers. “We’ll move a lot of fresh pitted cherries this year in 10-pound pails. In terms of timing, we’ll start those around July 18. Cherries are a big seller here in Ontario.”

Ecker attributes the change in production to the weather. While the current hot, humid climate in Ontario may be more detrimental to cherries, it is ideal for other tender fruit. With 70 percent of sweet and tart cherries coming from the United States being grown in four states, including Washington.

“Washington is tough to compete with. I think over the years, that’s why our cherry production has declined because the western climate seems like it’s better for cherry growing,” Ecker said. “We’ve got a hot, humid climate in Ontario. Sometimes the rains can affect the entire cherry crop and that’s always been a risk. We peak around 10.5 row size.”

Ontario’s aptly named Niagara region makes for juicy peaches.

“What we’ve lost in cherries we’ve gained in peaches,” stated Ecker. “We grow amazing nectarines, plums, grapes and in recent years we’ve started to plant more and more apricots. It’s starting to take off. By growing the apricots close to our customers here in Ontario we can provide them with amazing tasting apricots. We think it’s a huge opportunity for us.” They also expect between a 15 to 20 percent increase in volume of nectarines this year.

With recent funding from Ontario Tender Fruit Growers and Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, over 111,000 trees will be planted to bolster Niagara’s thriving tender fruit industry. Participating growers began planting this spring, with more trees to be planted in the fall. Production of Cold Snap pears, included in the project, is ramping up.

“All of the retail chains will have a nice Canadian pear on the shelves for most of the year.”

Right now, it’s proper irrigation that’s needed for good-sized fruit.

“All of our growers are irrigating like crazy trying to make sure we continue to get that good size that sells,” noted Ecker. “The medium to large size fruit fits really nice in the basket, sells well and it eats well.”

 

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DECEMBER 10, 2014
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