By Tom Collins
LEAMINGTON — Hot temperatures this year have led to one of the best tomato growing seasons in about a decade, growers said.
Pete Brunato grows 400 acres of tomatoes in Essex and Kent Counties. In Essex, he said, growers are getting 50-plus metric tonnes per acre. A dry growing season meant farmers were controlling the feeding and water for every tomato. The average Ontario yield last year was 44.9 tonnes per acre.
“The grades are fantastic,” he said. “The bricks, which are the sugars in the tomatoes, are higher than normal. It’s as perfect as it gets.”
This year, there are 83 farmers growing tomatoes for six Ontario processing plants. Those growers have contracts for 471,624 metric tonnes on 11,251 acres.
While some growers said the yields are record-breaking, processing plants “aren’t set up to take 50-tonne crops,” said Brunato. “If things continue the way they are now, there will be a lot of product left in the fields.”
Cathy Lennon, general manager of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, said as of Sept. 5, about 33 per cent of the contracted crops have been harvested.
“The quality and the colour is looking excellent and yield has been pretty strong,” she said. “We’ve had an ideal season.”
Dresden-area farmer Pascal Jennen said he’s close to his farm’s 10-year yield average of 42 tonnes per acre but the heat has ripened the crop too quickly.