The demographics in the GTA have been changing enormously. About half the population of the GTA is born outside of Canada. As a result, the types of foods that people are consuming are also changing. Vegetables like bitter melon, okra and callaloo are some of the vegetables that ethnic populations consume on a regular basis. From where do they get these vegetables? Most of these vegetables are imported from around the world and sold mostly at small ethnic grocery stores. The demand for these vegetables is high and not only amongst ethnic communities, but Canadians as well. In 2010, FarmStart along with a research team from the University of Guelph completed a study based on 750 face to face questionnaires. This study found that there is a $61 million dollar demand for ethno-cultural vegetables per month in the GTA alone. For more information on this study, go to www. FarmStart/news/
Recognizing this demand, more farmers are starting to produce these vegetables. We work with many farmers who grow a wide range of world crops including bitter melon, sorrel and Indian kaddu in Canada.
However, not a lot of knowledge exists about the opportunities and challenges farmers face producing these vegetables:
Why do farmers choose to produce ethno-cultural vegetables?
Are there any barriers that farmers face producing those vegetables? If so, what are they?
Are there any policies or programs that assist with producing ethno-cultural vegetables in Ontario?
Is there enough awareness and knowledge about the market potential of these vegetables?
Does the ethno-cultural vegetable market have the potential to strengthen the economy in Ontario?
These are the questions a new research study is asking farmers. This study is a partnership between the University of Guelph and FarmStart. The goal of this research is to develop awareness about ethno-cultural vegetables around GTA for farmers and consumers alike. We hope that new farmers can take advantage of this knowledge and the market potential that ethno-cultural vegetables hold around the GTA.
Please refer to the ECVOntario blog for further information and discussions on ethno-cultural vegetables.