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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. Continue reading From rural Ontario to Alcatraz

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Locally grown exotic plant opens new markets, creates jobs

An exotic houseplant with pink flowers is turning heads across North America and creating jobs in the Niagara region.

The plant, named Medinilla Magnifica, is helping to expand operations and open up new markets for Ted Oorsprong’s Northend Gardens.

Thanks to some support from Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, Oorsprong is selling the plant in chain stores and garden centres across Ontario, the Northeastern United States, British Columbia, Alberta, Washington and Texas.  Continue reading Locally grown exotic plant opens new markets, creates jobs

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New crops in local soils raising high hopes

Ontario lavender bunches

Lavender, hazelnuts and sweet potatoes are not crops we commonly associate with this province.

Yet they’re starting to emerge in Ontario’s south coast area, the fertile sand plains in Norfolk, Brant, Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford counties where tobacco used to reign supreme.

As the decline of the tobacco industry continued over the last decade, agricultural and economic development leaders in the area began grappling with key questions governing the future of their region, which is a key producer of many Ontario foods, including fruits and vegetables.

How can we bring new life and new value to this farmland? How can we keep farmers profitable and sustain the rural and regional economies? At the same time, is there an opportunity to bring new products to Ontario or to grow crops here that we’re currently importing from other places around the world? Continue reading New crops in local soils raising high hopes

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Thermal blanket helps lower greenhouse energy costs

Farmers are looking at many different solutions for dealing with rising energy costs. For one greenhouse grower, the answer lies with a new technology, a thermal blanket installation, which is expected to lower his energy costs by about one-third.

Gerard Schouwenaar of Orchard Park Growers, a St. Catharines-area flower producer, retrofitted a 30,000 sq ft greenhouse in the fall of 2009 with the technology—also called a thermal curtain—as a
way of combating rising energy costs and he’s very satisfied with the results.
Continue reading Thermal blanket helps lower greenhouse energy costs

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Lovely local lavender

To me, the thought of lavender always brings images of the south of France to mind – and a lovely vacation I spent there with my Mom in the late 1990s.

It’s time for me to change my thinking, though, because lavender is set to have a bigger presence as a homegrown Ontario crop as well.

Ontario farmers recently formed the Ontario Lavender Association and are excited about the potential of this crop as an exciting addition to agri-tourism in our province, says a recent story in The Grower. Continue reading Lovely local lavender

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