Navigating COVID-19 in the Greenhouse Produce Sector


Photo © Courtesy of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

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“Unprecedented times”—if there were ever a catchphrase for 2020, this would be it. For the Ontario greenhouse produce sector, the challenges faced have definitely been without precedent.

For over 50 years, family-run greenhouse farms have provided Ontario with safe, nutritious, high-quality vegetables. Ontario boasts one of the highest concentrations of greenhouse farms in all of North America. Due to their protected environments, greenhouses have a much longer growing season and can grow delicious and nutritious produce when the days are short and the weather is cold.

Greenhouses employ thousands of people—Canadians and foreign nationals alike. Whether local or foreign, farm employees are essential to every greenhouse and to feeding all of Canada. Many employees have long histories with their farms and are considered friends and family members. Programs like the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program provide opportunities for employees and their families that are unavailable in their home countries. For example, over $300 million in saved earnings are sent back to families in their home countries every year. These programs have also helped buy homes, start businesses, fund churches, and even build schools.

Unlike field farms open to the elements, by March, greenhouse farms are already well into their busy season. But this year, it meant that the greenhouse produce sector would be one of the first agricultural groups that would have to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immediately, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers began guiding the fast-evolving regulatory requirement, best practices, planning tools, and support programming.

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Photo © Courtesy of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

Farms acted quickly with health screenings, increased sanitation practices, PPE for on and off-farm use, and the installation of barriers on farms where social distancing was not possible. Continuous education was also provided to new workers outlining the benefits of social distancing, hand washing and general safety.

However, outbreaks did occur.

Even though many farms inspected were shown to have implemented the appropriate control and prevention measures, we recognize there is more to do. Our farmers are continuously striving to improve. We are working hard with our government partners to identify opportunities for change that further protect our valuable agri-food employees and protect the Canadian food supply.

Despite the outbreaks and severe stress in the background, there was never any point where grocery shelves stood empty. This is a testament to the farm families and their valued employees. They are more than essential; they are heroes.

Ontarians can trust that their greenhouse vegetable growers will continue to provide safe, affordable, nutritious produce. We are setting new precedents for the future of agriculture and our communities. Together, we are all working towards our new normal.

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Photo © Courtesy of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

This sensational easy-to-make salad, is perfect for the holiday season, starring Ontario-grown greenhouse vegetables.


The Essential Village Salad

Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 lb (455 g) mixed ripe Ontario greenhouse tomatoes (heirlooms
    can add a punch of colour!)
  • 4 Ontario greenhouse mini
    cucumbers (or 2/3 Ontario
    greenhouse English cucumber)
  • 1 Ontario greenhouse pepper
    (be as colourful as you want!)
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cut tomatoes into wedges. Cut cherry and grape tomatoes in half. Slice cucumbers on bias. (If using English cucumber, halve lengthwise first.) Cut pepper into bite-size pieces. Place vegetables in large mixing bowl with onion and parsley. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Transfer to serving dish.

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OGVG works hard to promote and connect its growers with government agencies, consumers, retailers and foodservice operators across North America through various government lobbing events, research, marketing initiatives, trade shows and community activities. As a whole, OGVG strives to support the Ontario greenhouse vegetable sector and its growers, however possible, to ensure success for today, sustainability for tomorrow, and fresh, nutritious, quality produce for all!


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