by SUSAN MANN
Interest among tender fruit growers in funding from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation to plant new trees will be strong, says the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers chair.
The foundation announced Oct. 14 it’s providing $400,000 in funding for growers in the Niagara Region to plant up to 130,000 tender fruit tree varieties, such as peaches and pears, on 500 acres. The funding is part of a pilot project by the foundation and the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers. The foundation is providing 25 per cent of the cost of a tree or about $3.50 per fruit tree.
Phil Tregunno says the growers will pay the remaining 75 per cent for each tree along with planting and the other normal costs incurred in growing trees, such as pruning and fertilizing. A tender fruit tree is about $10 to $11.
Tregunno notes growers will initially be limited to a maximum of 10 acres of trees each. “We want to spread it (the funding) around to as many growers as possible.”
If there are funds available and more trees need to planted “then we’ll open it up again,” he says. “We want to make sure that everybody gets a chance at the funding.”
The pilot project is designed to give Greenbelt growers a financial boost, strengthen the tender fruit sector and increase prosperity in Niagara Region, the foundation’s release says. The funding will “help the industry introduce improved and new tender fruit varieties in the protected Greenbelt that will meet consumer demand for high quality, local stone fruit and pears.”
Planting will take place in the spring of 2016, and the new tender fruit varieties will be available to consumers by the summer of 2019, the release says. Once they mature (about three to four years after planting), the trees are expected to generate about $4 million in fruit production.
Foundation CEO Burkhard Mausberg says in the release the funding is the largest investment the Greenbelt foundation has made during the past five years “in the economic powerhouse that is Ontario’s agricultural sector. The significant support is a signal of our commitment to partnering with Niagara’s Greenbelt farmers and continuing to grow this important industry.”
Tregunno says the funding will enable growers to survey what they currently have planted in their orchards and “strategically replant to meet consumer demand.”
He is interested in planting some of the newer varieties of pears, apricots on his Niagara-on-the-Lake farm. “We’re also interested in doing some specialty items like the donut peaches.”
Tregunno says, “it’s a great opportunity for us to partner with the Greenbelt Foundation. The Greenbelt and the tender fruit industry share a lot of the same things — we want to see the land preserved, we want to promote local and we want to make sure the agricultural community is sustainable.” BF