If you have been traveling around Chatham-Kent, you will likely notice a number of fields of tomatoes being harvested, with large trucks and trailers taking these tomatoes to various processing facilities.
And did you know that Chatham-Kent is the number one producer of tomatoes in all of Canada?
There are two basic types of tomatoes grown in our area. One type can be referred to as “fresh market” tomatoes. These would be the tomatoes you buy at the local farmers market or grocery store or the ones you would grow in your backyard. These are often the “beefsteak” varieties — large and juicy. The other type is called ‘processing tomatoes’ and these are used as the name suggests, for processing.
These tomatoes would go into products such as tomato juice, ketchup, tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned, whole and diced peeled, tomato soup, and so on. Due to the mechanical harvesting and bulk handling requirements, these tomatoes have thicker flesh walls and a stronger outer skin. The centre core on most processing varieties is virtually absent to further enhance canned peel quality.
There are a number of processors in Southwestern Ontario who handle tomatoes, including three here in Chatham-Kent. These are ConAgra Foods in Dresden (formerly CanGro Foods), Harvest-Pac Products in Chatham, and Weil’s Food Processing in Wheatley.
Processing tomatoes account for most of the tomatoes grown in Ontario and in Chatham-Kent. Last year, Chatham-Kent producers grew around 12,000 acres of processing tomatoes. From that acreage, approximately one half million tons of tomatoes were harvested with a gross farm value of over $55 million. This year, the tomato crop is not as large as last year due to early rains and frost, which killed a large number of tomato plants.
Of the total acres of tomatoes grown in Ontario, Chatham-Kent accounts for around 65% and Essex County around 35%. Leamington has always claimed the ‘Tomato Capital of Canada’ due to having a greater number of processors, including the famous Heinz facility.
Tomatoes, which are actually a fruit and not a vegetable, are loaded with all kinds of health benefits for the body. They are a highly versatile health product and due to their many preparation options, tomatoes can be an important part of a healthy diet.
One of the most well-known tomato-eating benefit is its ‘lycopene’ content, which is a vital antioxidant helping in the fight against cancerous cell formation as well as other kinds of health complications and diseases.
Lycopene is not a naturally produced element within the human body and while other fruits and vegetables do contain this necessary health ingredient, no other fruit or vegetable has the concentration of lycopene that the tomato contains.
Tomatoes also contain large amounts of vitamin C, providing 40% of the recommended daily value (DV), as well as 15% DV of vitamin A, 8% DV of potassium, and 7% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron for women and 10% RDA for men.
With the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in our Chatham-Kent area, go ahead and have a toasted tomato sandwich on whole wheat bread. And thanks for supporting our local producers — it’s so important.
Think about this — The most meaningful mathematical equation: 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.
Just some food for thought.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘WE GROW FOR THE WORLD’!
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 35 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at theAGguy