Ontario food retailers are on board with Foodland Ontario, the province’s homegrown program.


Ontarians are actively encouraged to seek out produce bearing the Foodland Ontario label.


Foodland Ontario’s Web site, www.foodlandontario.gov.on.ca, offers a variety of facts, recipes, industry information and other data related to the province’s fruit and vegetable production.


Foodland Ontario, a program of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, has been promoting Ontario produce and other agriculture products since 1977.


A chief goal of the program, the Web site notes, is to keep the Ontario’s market share in-season at more than 80%.


“I like that program because they pull your ability to trade off it,” said Jamie Reaume, executive director of the Newmarket, Ontario-based Holland Marsh Growers Association. “They enforce it better. Consumers recognize that Foodland logo.”


The ministry reminds Ontarians of the economic importance of supporting their local growers.


Retailers have responded, those growers say.


“We have a lot of support from the local chain store business for the local grower,” said Scott Biddle, owner of Vittoria-based Scotlynn Commodities.


“Working with the buyers and category managers at different levels in the chain store business usually gives decent support to the local farmer.”


There’s plenty of information about homegrown products available, said Miriam Worley, partner in Chary Produce, Oakland, Ontario.


“They’ve had TV commercials. They do feature pictures of local farmers in fliers that go out every week. There are displays in the stores,” she said.


“A group of us farmers made a box that promotes our area — everything from Norfolk County. We grow a wide variety of veggies here, so we all use the same box. You can go into a Loblaw’s and know that everything is from where it says it’s from.”


Retailers aren’t shy about showcasing Ontario produce, said Paul Procyk, owner of Procyk Farms, Wilsonville, Ontario.


“Pretty much, it’s in your face,” he said. “The retailers are making sure that, when consumers come in, it’s Ontario. It’s right there. They have to trip over it to get to the meat section.”


The Holland Marsh, a production area just north of Toronto, which is home to 115 growers producing 50 commodities, has some added exposure as a greenbelt area, said Tony Moro, president, Bradford, Ontario-based Bradford & District Produce Ltd.


“I do like the fact that they promote us as the ‘backyard garden,’” he said.


Retailers do need to take better care of the product, at least in some cases, Moro said


“We’ve done everything possible to have a (continuous) cold chain from harvest to cooling, with hydrocooling and refrigerated trucks. Then all of a sudden they arrive in the stores and they put it on a hot shelf,” he said. “I wish there was a little bit more care for that. We do everything possible to bring a world-class product to the store. If they would treat it as such, it would be greatly appreciated.”


Sometimes, price is an issue with retailers, as well, said Paul Otter, co-owner of Woodville, Ontario-based Woodville Farms Ltd.


“They’re doing a good job moving a lot of product, and the people are loving it, but chain stores knock you down when they want to go cheap, I’ll tell you,” he said. “That’s the biggest hurdle.”