In the month of February, greenhouse vegetable propagator Roelands Plant Farms Inc., from Lambton Shores, Ontario, is usually shipping the last of its orders for the year’s tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to clients throughout North America. After that, the busy season winds down.
But not this year. Once those vegetables destined to grow under glass were on their way, owner Adrian Roelands and his team started ramping up production of a new baby plant crop: sweet potatoes.
Roelands was tasked with propagating sweet potato slips to trial Vineland’s made-in-Canada variety of the popular storage vegetable on about 25 Canadian farms this year. “It’s a nice fit for our organization. When we heard about the opportunity (to propagate slips), we thought this fits well with our business plan.”
The Vineland sweet potato, called Radiance (a variety bred in collaboration with Louisiana State University), matures in less time than the usual commercial varieties typically grown in the long, hot seasons of the southern U.S.
Radiance has also been deemed a winner in the flavour department by consumers who are hungry for the versatile root vegetable enjoying superfood status. Prior to the breeding of Radiance, however, Canadian sweet potato growers relied on slips from the U.S., often in short supply once American farmers’ orders are filled. Those sweet spuds also require long growing seasons, which can be elusive on this side of the border.