Christmas starts in July for Ontario flower growers

Colonial Florists' popular Frosty Fern
Colonial Florists’ popular Frosty Fern

While the rest of us are soaking up the sunshine, enjoying the hot weather and barbecuing on the beach, Ron van der Zalm is thinking about Christmas.

He’s a greenhouse flower grower in St. Catharines, Ontario and the height of summer is when he starts growing popular Christmas plants in his greenhouse, like Poinsettias, Cyclamen and Frosty Ferns.

Together with his brother and two cousins, Ron runs Colonial Florists, a second generation family wholesale flower business with 11 acres of greenhouses that was started by his father and three uncles more than 50 years ago. (more…)

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Local food love reflected in popularity of food media tour


Ontario just marked its second annual Local Food Week.

Although there were a multitude of events going on across the province, including a Foodland Ontario-run Twitter party and a one-day farmers’ market at Queen’s Park, the highlight for me was a Farm & Food Care Ontario media tour in the Ottawa area.

It was a highlight because I was able to participate – more on that in a moment – but even more so because it showed me just how far the popularity of local food and media interest in food and farming has come over the last decade.

Let’s flash back to October 2008 for a second.

I was the Interim Executive Director of AGCare (the predecessor group to Farm & Food Care Ontario along with the Ontario Farm Animal Council), and we were partnering with OFAC to run a farm tour for food writers in the Ottawa area. (more…)

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Grocery store shelf-labelling program comes to Ontario

LS-OF-shelf labels with QR codes help identify local food in-store

An innovative shelf labelling program that is already being used in over 250 stores in Western Canada has come to Ontario.

Through smartphone-enabled tags, Localize highlights regional products s and provides shoppers with information about the origin of food products right at the shelf.

Each product considered local under the program has a QR code on its shelf labels which connects shoppers to Localize’s online database where they can learn more about the product.

All products are given a Localize score that ranks how local a product is on a scale of 0 to 10. (more…)

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The ups and downs of sharing life on social media

LS-OF-Social media panel Carrie Mess
Carrie Mess aka @dairycarrie speaks at the Farm & Food Care Ontario annual meeting.

Milton ON – There’s no doubt that the advent of social media has changed how we communicate.

With a few taps on a tablet or smart phone screen, you can share images, information, and opinion with pretty much anyone, anywhere.

That has both advantages and disadvantages, as three farmers active on social media shared at the recent Farm & Food Care annual meeting as part of a panel discussion looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the online world.

Carrie Mess is a dairy farmer from Wisconsin who has added blogger, tweeter and all-round agvocate (advocate for agriculture) to her resume since launching her blog, The Adventures of Dairy Carrie, in 2011. (more…)

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From rural Ontario to Alcatraz

Guelph grad leads garden restoration on Alcatraz 

AlcatrazI’ve long wanted to visit Alcatraz, the notorious prison island off the coast of San Francisco commonly called simply “The Rock”.

I didn’t make it there during my first trip to the area almost a decade ago; back then, I didn’t realize you had to buy tickets days or even weeks in advance during peak tourist season.

I was better prepared during a trip to California with my husband this past June.

During our visit to the island, which started as a military garrison and was ultimately converted to a civilian penitentiary in 1934 before being shut down in 1963, I was particularly fascinated by the many beautiful plants and flowers everywhere.

It wasn’t until I was home again that I learned of the Alcatraz Gardens’ connection to Bruce County and the University of Guelph. (more…)

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