Chocolate as a local Ontario food?

I make no secret of my love affair with chocolate. In fact, as someone born in Switzerland, I sometimes feel like it’s my cultural duty to my heritage to ensure that my blood flows as chocolate-brown as possible.

So, given that background, the thought that products like Nutella and Fererro Rochers might soon be considered locally grown makes my chocolate-loving heart beat just a little bit faster.

Let me shed some light on this. The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, through its Erie Innovations and Commercialization Initiative, is exploring the potential for a hazelnut industry in Ontario. Hazelnuts are key ingredients in both of the products I mentioned above, which are manufactured by Ferrero Canada Inc. in Brantford, Ontario.

Dr. John Kelly, Vice President of Erie Innovations, hosted a meeting of interested farmers, industry and experts from the US, Canada and Italy this past spring to generate interest in starting a hazelnut industry in south central Ontario.

“Hazel nuts present a real untapped opportunity in our mandate to develop diversification opportunities for the south central Ontario region, hazelnuts represent a real untapped opportunity” said Kelly, referring to the goal of Erie Innovations to develop new agricultural opportunities for the farming areas of Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, Brant and something else hit hard by the decline in the tobacco and horticulture sectors. “There is a good business opportunity to provide growers another viable outlet for new crop development”.

Research into hazelnut production is already underway at the University of Guelph. Prof. Adam Dale is working on something – which you can learn more about in this video, produced by students in the SPARK program at the University’s Office of Research.

Perhaps one day we’ll see a Foodland Ontario logo gracing the sides of a box of golden wrapped Ferrero Rocher chocolates…a locavore food-loving girl’s dream!

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