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Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, a Leamington, ON-based member organization that lobbies, conducts research and promotes for Ontario greenhouse vegetable growers, is looking to connect its products with the locally grown concept via a new consumer initiative.

George Gilvesy, general manager of the organization, told The Produce News that its new locally grown program, known as "Oh-So-Local" and with the tagline “Request Ontario Greenhouse Freshness,” launched April 30 and will focus on greenhouse-produced vegetables.

“It will include advertising campaigns in the greater Toronto and Ottawa areas,” said Mr. Gilvesy. “Promotions include signage on bus backs and the interiors of transit vehicles such as street cars, buses and subway cars.”

OGVG will use $100,000 of its own money with matching provincial funding for a total of $200,000 to support the new campaign.

“When people think of locally grown, they tend to think of field-grown fruits and vegetables,” said Mr. Gilvesy. “But Ontario greenhouse-grown vegetables are local to our communities. They've just not been promoted as such in the past. This initiative was developed to help raise consumer awareness of the great tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers that the greenhouse industry here produces.”

The project has two phases: one in the spring as the Ontario greenhouse industry is starting, and again in the fall before the end of the season. With the exception of cucumbers, which are produced year-round in Ontario, the season extends from March through December.

“The program and funding is designated for this year,” said Mr. Gilvesy. “Matching-fund programs come and go, and we will keep our eyes open for new funding programs in the future in hopes of continuing the program.”

Pat Hoy and Bruce Crozier, local members of the provincial parliament, delivered the $100,000 to OGVG on April 30. In an announcement, Mr. Hoy said, “Ontario is spurring rural economies and local food sales by supporting this marketing project in Leamington. When we buy Ontario, everyone wins. It’s good for farmers and processors, good for families, good for the environment, and good for the rural economies. With this fund, we are expanding local food networks and helping communities and industries showcase the abundance of food that is produced and made in Ontario.”

Mr. Gilvesy stressed that the “Oh-So-Local” campaign has nothing to do with the March 22 announcement by the Canada Border Services Agency that it was investigating alleged injurious dumping of greenhouse Bell peppers originating in or exported from the Netherlands.

“Unfortunately, at least one press venue got that fact wrong,” he said. “This program is to promote locally grown Ontario greenhouse produce. It’s not in retaliation of or about any other issue.”

Mr. Gilvesy also announced that the OGVG is aggressively looking at promoting more strongly to the foodservice industry.

“About 60 percent of tomato consumption is at the foodservice level,” he said. “The Ontario greenhouse industry has always been strongly focused on the retail sector, but now we’re placing more concentration on foodservice.”

For the first time, the OGVG will exhibit at the PMA Foodservice Conference & Exposition, scheduled for July 30-Aug. 1 in Monterey, CA.

“Our food-safety initiative has created a lot of opportunities for our growers,” Mr. Gilvesy added.

OGVG’s “First In Food Safety” program helps producers establish a system to reduce the potential for chemical, microbial and physical contamination of cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, and provide a traceability system that can limit the potential scope of an outbreak of foodborne illness.