Growing the industry: The need to support NOTL’s tender fruit growers

Growing the industry: The need to support NOTL’s tender fruit growers

Over the decades, the Tregunno family have moved their farm eastward multiple times in the face of overwhelming development pressure.

Phil Tregunno’s great-grandfather started in Burlington, his grandfather farmed in Grimsby and his dad farmed in St. Catharines. Luckily, his dad bought some property in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where the family’s tender fruit operation is now headquartered.

“We have our backs against the river and we don’t expect to move,” he said, from his Niagara Parkway farm.

In Ontario, about two million acres of land is protected under the Greenbelt. It’s prime agricultural land and significant natural green space land vital for the province’s farming sector and its ecological health. Last week, the Greenbelt Foundation announced a new round of funding to help plant tender fruit trees and grape vines in Niagara. Its purpose is to support the growers within the Greenbelt and protect Ontario’s agricultural sector and food supply.

For Tregunno, who is also chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers, the protection and support of the Greenbelt is vital for both his farm and the industry.

“Thank goodness for the Greenbelt … The economics, the sustainability, of course, is key to this. And a lot of this funding is certainly going to help that way.”

Last week’s grant announcement was for $280,000, but Greenbelt Foundation CEO Ed McDonnell said it will help spur $1 million in overall investment, leading to 75,000 new trees and 10,000 new grape vines.

“The investment is projected to increase production in the region by seven per cent, contributing an additional $10 million annually in value to the sector and creating 150 full-time jobs,” he said.

The impact will be huge on a sector that has recovered from a 2008 shock when the region’s last canning factory moved its production overseas. Tregunno said it created a lot of uncertainty in the market, as growers were forced to replant trees geared toward the fresh market.

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