Nfld. & Labrador

Province nearly doubling vegetable production, eyeing food security concerns

The province's vegetable transplant program will see three million vegetable transplants during the 2020 planting season, up from 1.7 million last year.

N.L. hopes for up to 2.8 million pounds of vegetables following a boost to local farms.

This year's seeding has already begun at the Wooddale Centre for Agriculture and Forestry Development. (Leigh Anne Power/CBC)

A plate of Jiggs dinner featuring entirely locally grown vegetables may soon be the rule more than the exception.

Concern over the state of Newfoundland and Labrador's foodways has been growing over the last few years, often highlighted by inclement weather disrupting food shipments over the winter months.

The COVID-19 pandemic and added fears surrounding the transmission of the disease through those critical workers engaged in food shipment, have underlined these issues. 

On Wednesday, government announced the expansion of the Vegetable Transplant Program, which will see three million vegetable transplants during the 2020 planting season. That is up from 1.7 million last year.

"In the fall, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are going to get the opportunity to enjoy the bounty of some home-grown vegetables, said Premier Dwight Ball, who took time during the daily COVID-19 update to talk about the program.

Increased planting, but still socially isolated

This year's seeding has already begun at the Wooddale Centre for Agriculture and Forestry Development. But 2020 is not a normal year.

While the new vegetable transplant program is in part addressing the COVID-19 pandemic by attempting to shore up food security, it also means that great lengths must be undertaken to keep workers safe in the face of the pandemic itself.

New — and strict — safety precautions are in place at the centre to keep staff distanced from each other, even as they prepare to increase production.

They are one of 65 successful applicants to the program. 

Working to ease dependence on imports

There has been a steady increase in transplants over the last few years to deal with the issue of food security in the province. 

In 2018 the program saw 255,800 transplants distributed to 25 farmers. Last year, 54 farmers together received the 1.7 million transplants.

This year's three million transplants will be divided up by 65 farmers across the province, for a potential total harvest of 3.8-million pounds of locally grown vegetables. 

A file image of produce at Three Mile Ridge Farm, near Lethbridge. Newfoundland and Labrador expects to pump up production this year through a more aggressive planting program. (Leigh Anne Power/CBC)

Those crops include broccoli, cabbage, onion, kale, cauliflower, turnip and lettuce.

Ball thanked the province's farmers for their work putting food on local tables. But of course, farmers and workers can't do it alone. 

"We could use a little help from Mother Nature, and of course some good growing weather in the coming months," said Ball.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hawthorn

Journalist

Andrew Hawthorn is a writer and reporter working with the CBC in St. John's.

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