Bick’s moves its pickles to the U.S. – Business – Macleans.ca


Via MacLean’s: Bick’s moves its pickles to the U.S. – Business – Macleans.ca.

Pickle by Reena Newman

When you trawl the pickle aisle of a Canadian grocery store you’re almost certain to see shelves of Bick’s products and that iconic red-and-green logo. It’s the country’s dominant producer of pickles. At least it used to be. After more than 60 years of processing cucumbers, onions, peppers and beets in Canada, Bick’s has closed its plants in Dunnville and Delhi, Ont., and moved its operations to Wisconsin.

The move has left the Canadian pickle industry adrift, with farmers fretting—worried not just about falling cucumber prices and disappearing markets, but the very fate of the Canadian-made pickle. Marshall Schuyler once grew 600 tonnes of cucumbers for Bick’s per year but has gradually been cutting back in favour of more profitable crops like soybeans and corn. This year, for the first time in 20 years, he won’t be planting any. “The future success of Canadian cucumbers—and many of our processed vegetables—depends on the consumers’ willingness to pay for food safety,” he says, referring to the rise of cheaper foreign imports that picklers like Bick’s are turning to.

While fresh produce has benefited from the buy-local movement, the same can’t be said for canned or jarred goods. “Canadians just want to buy the cheapest product they can,” says John Lutigheid, a former cucumber grower for Bick’s in Chatham, Ont. “They don’t care where their pickles are made. The buy-local movement has been all about buying fresh, which only applies for a few months of the year.”

Bick’s pickles was the quintessential Canadian immigrant success story. After a bumper crop in 1944, German-born George Bick and his son Walter began selling barrels of cucumbers to Toronto restaurants from his Scarborough farm. Within two decades the company was churning out 36 million jars of pickles a year. In 1962, the brand was sold to Robin Hood Flour and then in 2004 to the U.S. company J.M. Smucker’s. Maribeth Burns Badertscher, a spokesperson for the company, cites the need for “greater manufacturing and sourcing flexibility” for the move to Wisconsin, which was completed late last year (resulting in the loss of 150 factory jobs and over 1,000 seasonal farm jobs). “We know Canadian growers can be part of our future supply chain,” she adds.

But Ontario farmers aren’t convinced Smucker’s will continue to pay a premium for Canadian cucumbers now that it’s left the country. Ontario is noted for its high quality but labour intensive cukes, says Mark Wales, a farmer and president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. Typically, the vegetable is harvested not by migrant workers but by sharecropping, where a farmer splits the payment for harvests with local pickers. “We have lost over a thousand of these seasonal jobs on top of all the manufacturing jobs,” says Wales.

John Mumford, the director of the Ontario Processed Vegetable Growers, points to “the double whammy of a high dollar and rising labour costs” to account for the Bick’s closure. But he notes that there are still opportunities—many farmers who lost the Bick’s contract are selling to large distributors, such as the U.S. company Hartung Brothers, which supplies the processed food industry. “While I hate to lose an iconic Canadian company like Bick’s, we still have a huge export market,” he says. Ontario cucumbers are likely still ending up in Bick’s pickle jars (after being bought and sold by firms like Hartung’s).

Still, farmers like Schuyler see only rising pressure brought by cheaper Indian or Sri Lankan pickles. He argues that more flexible and clearer labelling regulations would allow pickle manufacturers to specify a high Canadian produce content and might help consumers make more informed choices at the grocery store. But for the time being, at least, when you bite into a Bick’s, there’s a pretty good chance that it won’t be a Canadian pickle.



Great Glebe Garage Sale 2011 – Ottawa Celebrity Farmer


A quick interview with one of Ottawa’s Celebrity Farmers — Mr. Paul Slomp. You can learn more about his farm (and more importantly his farming practices) at www.grazingdays.com.

Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy


As I currently sit on one of the city’s advisory committees, I find Dave’s presentation quite inspiring. His example of the Toronto newspaper announcement for a zoning change and a magazine story about a campaign opposing the privatization of transit are sharp contrasts to how similar information for the arts and entertainment are presented.

Are vegetables and fruit important to good health?


In Wayne Robert’s recent interview on CTV he mentioned that

…there is no food strategy in Canada.  We have lots of strategies for transportation and energy, but we have no strategy that’s coherent and links “what do we grow” to “what do we eat.

For instance, everyone knows that the cornerstone of a healthy diet is fruits and vegetables and yet there are probably less than five percent of the farms in Canada which produce fruit and vegetables…

Wayne brings up an interesting point.  I was interested to see what the situation is like here in Ottawa.   That can’t possibly be true with all of our local farms, CSA and farmer markets… can it?

Let’s google up some StatCan statistics:

Well, there are the facts from four years ago.   I will be interested to see how our local story has changed once the 2011 Census of Agriculture has been published.

Looks like it doesn’t pay to be growing healthy human food either… Proportion of gross farm receipts by farm type for Ottawa-Gatineau’s Fruit & Veg producers was WAYYY below the average for similar producers in Ontario and Quebec.

Grazing Days – Grass Fed Beef in Ottawa!


PS - The man, the machine. Meet Farmer Paul.    This man is a machine and he’s a true farmer in every sense of the word.

I’ve just heard that there are a few spots left in his Ottawa area Grass Fed Angus Beef to-your-door delivery service (following a CSA model) — a rare opportunity for any of you looking for local, grass-fed beef CSAs this season.

Get in on the action while you can:

NCC survey of Ottawa’s Urban Lands


Importance of Natural Areas in my Community

Hey everybody, The National Capital Commission (NCC) is currently looking for comments to “improve the directions of the master plan and better reflect the interests of the public”

Survey ends September 20, 2010.

Until then you can add your input here: http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/bins/ncc_web_content_page.asp?cid=16300-20447-22709-116728&lang=1

Greening Lansdowne Park by Paving Greenbelt Forest.


Greening Lansdowne Park by Paving Greenbelt Forests.

Next Wednesday, September 1st 2010 the City’s Committee of Adjustment will be considering an application for a “Minor Variance” that would allow more than 28 acres of existing forest in the Greenbelt to be destroyed and replaced with a 2,000 car parking lot and Exhibition Hall.

Our city has already accepted a proposal from the Shenkman Corporation to build a 220,000 square foot exhibition hall and massive parking along Uplands Drive near the airport (Link to the June 1st report here).   From the report:

“The construction of a new Exposition Hall Facility, as proposed by Shenkman, will not only solve the problem of lack of contiguous exposition hall space that has significantly limited the ability of the trade and consumer show industry to grow in Ottawa, but will also allow the City to pursue its ‘greening” objectives for Lansdowne Park”

Lansdowne Park currently has a total of 96,400 square feet of exhibition space and since most of it will be replace with shopping, hotels and condos this Exhibition Hall project seems to be packaged in with Lansdowne’s Partnership Plan.

While I understand that the NCC has marked the proposed area for development, after touring the proposed building site you can’t help but wonder why the Exhibition Hall needs to be built in an existing forest when there is acre upon acre of manicured green lawn just across the road.

Construction is due to be completed by December 2011.  So while our attempts to Green Lansdowne may be just, it is somewhat ironic that constructing a 2,000 car parking lot in the existing forests of our greenbelt.

p.s. Other Contacts:

City of Ottawa’s Lead Planner for the Exposition Hall Facility Project:

Simon M. Deiaco, MCIP RPP
City of Ottawa
Planner II
Infrastructure Services and Community Sustainability
Planning and Growth Management Branch
t: (613) 580-2424 Ext. 15641
f: (613) 560-6006
e-mail: Simon.Deiaco@ottawa.ca

UPDATE #1: It looks like Spacing Ottawa has picked up on the story and is getting some good comments!

UPDATE #2: Metro Ottawa has picked up the story as well.  (Thank you Tim!)

Loblaws at COG’s 2010 Feast of Fields


Some commentary on an article in Ottawa Magazine that has to do with Loblaw’s sponsorship of this years Feast of the Fields event in Ottawa, Ontario:

It is always difficult to see a brand you hold near and dear go mainstream and that seems to be what’s happening with the Feast of Fields.

Participants like the Red Apron and the farms they have paired with have invested FAR MORE than “(a measly) $5,000″ to build up the Feast of Fields brand. Over the past few years the participants HAVE INVESTED HEAVILY in money and in kind by volunteering staff, energy, advertisements and food in order to make the Feast such a popular event.

After investing so heavily in the brand, it is no surprise that many feel COG have misstepped by involving Canada’s largest food distributor (and a leading provider of drugstore and financial products) to be the “Presenting Sponsor” by doing NO work and contributing 0.00076% of their annual profits.

Math: $5,000 divided by $656 Million (Loblaws Corp. net profit in 2009)
Reference: http://www.just-food.com/market-research/loblaw-companies-limited-swot-analysis_id92120.aspx

While the argument is focused a bit around ‘costs’ I think it also has something to do with ‘fairness’.  I mean,  I have to spend $50 to attend the event.   That’s about 0.1 % of an average annual $50k income for a single guy in my neighbourhood.   If Loblaws corp had to pay the same to attend the event, they’d be giving the Canadian Organic Growers $656,000 !

… Ron Eade has some more of COG’s side of the story on his Omnivore’s Ottawa blog.

UPDATE: There is some great commentary on Simply Fresh Ottawa [here] and [here] !

Shifting boundaries


Via the Ottawa Citizen: Shifting boundaries.

There was an interesting letter in the Citizen this morning.  It made me wonder if this “sacred ideology of growth” which Madeline Weld writes about could be successfully shifted to focus on (or include) plants and animals.

The Letter:

Shifting boundaries
By Madeline Weld, The Ottawa Citizen May 18, 2010

Re: Councillor muses about Terry Fox land swap, May 16.

This Citizen article illustrates the fact that unrestricted growth destroys the environment, while smart growth destroys the environment more slowly. As our expanding human population requires ever more space, we will just take it, wherever it may be and, however, it may be zoned.

Boundaries established to protect the habitat of endangered plant and animals will simply be shifted to accommodate relentless growth, as is occurring in the case of the planned expansion of Terry Fox Drive.

Developers know that the Ontario Municipal Board will almost always rule in their favour if recalcitrant residents or environmentalists give them any trouble.

What is playing out in Kanata is repeated countless times in Canada and around the world, as the global population soars from its current 6.8 million to a projected 9 billion-plus during the next 40 years and Canada’s population soars from 33 million to 44 million, an increase of 33 per cent driven primarily by the government’s own policies.

Environmentalists may win the occasional battle, but as long as they refuse to recognize growth as the enemy, as most steadfastly refuse to do, they will lose the war to preserve the habitat that biodiversity depends on. When push comes to shove in an increasingly crowded world, human needs for space to live, grow food, and meet their energy needs will always trump the needs of other organisms.

The developer may seem like the obvious villain in this case. But the real villains are the sacred ideology of growth, our governments who embrace this ideology, our environmentalists who refuse to challenge it, and the rest of us with our silence. The developers are merely implementing this sacred ideology at whose altar we all worship.

Madeline Weld,


Population Institute of Canada


City proposes cuts to tree maintenance budget


Shared via here.

Shared by jg

A great article from Apartment613!

Courtesy of jhscrapmom on flickr

Courtesy of jhscrapmom on flickr

Trees are the thin green line holding our cities back from the concrete abyss. Adding a line of ash or maples instantly transforms the mean city streets to a more humane and hospitable place and adds both beauty and privacy to the urban space. However, the advantages of the urban forest go beyond aesthetics to the more practical domains of energy savings and air quality. For example, having a tree in front of your house to break the wind can result in energy savings of 10-15%. They are also giant air filters, absorbing as much as 7,000 particles per litre of air as well as sucking up carbon from cars and buildings.

Given all these economic, environmental and social benefits, the proposed $2 million cuts to the city’s $11 million forestry program is a bit of a puzzle. According to the CBC, the cuts will mean that the regular trimming of Ottawa’s 310,000 trees will happen only once every 32 years, instead of once every 5 to 7 years as is currently the stated practice (although apparently that time line is more aspiration than fact). One disturbing (and completely unsubstantiated) rumor floating around is that the city will choose to just cut down trees that may become a problem over the next few years rather than deal with the risk.

The cuts to the tree budget are part of the city’s efforts to deal with a number of upcoming fiscal shocks that ironically have little to do with the deepest and most widespread global recession of recent memory. Instead, the strain is largely coming from the $36.7 million settlement to the contractors of the canceled north-south light rail line as well as money for the $13 million for the green bin program, $20 million for infrastructure and a $10 million increase to the police budget. Other fiscal measures on the table include cuts to OC Transpo bus routes, eliminating the $500,000 Crime Prevention Ottawa program and a 4% hike in property taxes.

Don’t get me wrong; fiscal probity is important, and it’s always hard to find budget cuts that won’t cause some self-righteous blogger somewhere to complain. However, it seems as if the council’s priorities in this case are a little off kilter. For example, they just pledged to spend $12 million ($6 million more then intended) on an electronic system to announce the stops in buses – not exactly on my list of things to spend on when I have a $32 million bill coming in. I have no beef with the police, but given that their budget has doubled over the last decade did they really need $10 million more this year? Couldn’t they have got by with only $8 million?

Upkeeping trees is a policy to improve energy efficiency, clean the air and beautify the city all at once. Not upkeeping trees endangers both a valuable resource and public safety. This might save money, but it is certainly a waste of common sense.

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