In the rural areas of Chatham-Kent, large transport-trailers hauling thousands of tomatoes away from farmers’ fields could have been seen over the past couple of weeks. The good news for farmers in the area is that this year’s spring wasn’t enough to hamper the tomato harvest in the region.
“We’ve had a very good quality year,” said Simon Hogervorst, plant manager at Dresden’s Conagra Foods processing plant. “There was a little bit of risk at the start of the year because planting was late for everybody.”
The constant rain that persisted through much of May and June meant farmers had to wait getting seeds in the ground, but some ideal growing weather throughout the summer made up for it. All those high quality aspects of the incoming tomato crop made for an easier process at the plant, said Hogervorst, allowing Conagra to run more tomatoes through the plant than expected. He said the quality of tomatoes is above average this year.
Hogervorst said the conditions that led to the strong harvest included the right number of hot days, the right amount of moisture once the plants were in the ground, and fairly stable temperatures.
The harvest isn’t complete, but Conagra expects to come in at over its original forecast goal of 105,000 tonnes.
A total of 23 farmers in the region send their tomato yields to the Conagra processing plant. During this time of year, the plant bumps up their workforce from around 120 employees to approximately 450 in order to meet the increased labour demand at the plant. Of the additional employees, about 100 are from Jamaica and the rest are seasonal Canadian workers.