It doesn’t get better than this, first picks in Ontario for NatureFreshTM Farms are here! From now until early November, we’ll be picking, packing and shipping fresh Ontario grown Tomatoes, Bell Peppers and Cucumbers. Although there is still a long season ahead, a celebration is necessary; what exactly are we celebrating? Our Grow-to People who have collectively accomplished the first step of many throughout the growing season; it’s time to start picking.
In order to ensure we’re kick things off on the right foot, attention to detail is a necessity when determining a first pick schedule. At NatureFreshTM Farms, it’s essential that all of our commodities are vine-ripened and not picked prematurely to ensure top of the line flavor. Helen S., who has been working at NatureFreshTM Farms for over 16 years, spends the majority of her time in the crop ensuring our products are being picked at peak flavor. When a vegetable is picked before it can fully mature, it’s potential flavor is immediately reduced. This is not an option for us as flavor is the driving force behind our growing strategy.
Using a hands-on approach, all of our employees contribute to our growing strategy in some way, shape or form. It’s factors such as the amount of nutrients each plant receives in order for the plant to flourish. Assistant growers like Josh N. dedicate countless hours ensuring the plants are receiving and absorbing all these nutrients necessary to create the flavorful vegetables we are picking today.
It doesn’t stop there, as our growers have access to technology that allows them to control many other aspects of the environment within our greenhouses. This creates an optimum growing environment for our plants giving us the ability to conduct our first picks today. Factors such as temperature, light levels through screening, humidity and CO2 levels, are crucial because without these processes it would be nearly impossible to find fresh locally grown vegetables in Ontario or Ohio in April.
Not only do we provide fresh produce to our loyal customers, we want to give them a product they can count on. Using the latest technology, we are able to provide full traceability on any product that is grown in a NatureFreshTM greenhouse. As Warehouse Manager Johnny N. put it, we know who picked it, when it was picked, the amount that was picked and where it was picked. From there, we can determine when and where it was packed to ensure complete traceability.
We encourage everyone to ask the simple question, “Where did my produce come from?” The next time you’re in your favorite grocery store surrounded by produce from all around the world, take a look at the Price Look-Up (PLU) sticker on your bulk produce. As Director of Marketing Chris Veillon showed me, this sticker will indicate the country of origin and the grower that markets it. If you happen to see a NatureFreshTM Farms PLU on the produce you’re about to buy, you’ll know it’s from our greenhouses and that it’s a local product you can count on.
As you can see, it’s not as simple as planting a seed, adding some fertilizer and water, and conducting first picks a few months later. It’s about paying close attention to every detail and never compromising quality. By incorporating the latest technology into our growing practices and using a hands-on approach to growing, we’ve figured out a way to grow efficiently without sacrificing quality. This doesn’t happen overnight but we believe in never settling for what’s been done in the past; we’re constantly looking forward to determine how we can improve every day.
During our first pick campaign, we picked approximately 750 000 pounds of Bell Peppers, 121 000 pounds of Tomatoes and 380 000 pounds of Cucumbers in one week across our greenhouses in Ontario. Even with these enormous volumes, one thing will never change, consistent quality from the very first pick to the last.
For more information about first picks and how we grow, click here.