Located in sunny Southwestern Ontario, Chatham-Kent is proudly referred to as the banana belt of Canada and for good reason. Along with having one of the highest number of growing degree days in Canada, Chatham-Kent is surrounded by fresh water, and is only an hour drive to seven U.S. entry points.
Over the past year, Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff has been travelling across the region, exploring some of the 2,450 square kilometres of rich farm soil to meet with farmers, agricultural leaders, and food processing companies.
“I’ve discovered that our region is a hub for agribusiness innovation through advances in smart farming technology, robotics, automation and AI, and cutting-edge value-added food processing,” said Mayor Canniff. “Our greenhouse sector has doubled in size over the past several years and thanks to recent investments in important resources such as natural gas, is ramping up for even more growth.”
Chatham-Kent agribusiness is also an innovator when it comes to crop development. Canada’s first commercial rice crop was harvested in Chatham-Kent this past fall thanks to a partnership between Ontario FangZheng Agriculture Enterprises and Ridgetown Campus of the University of Guelph.
“I can’t stress enough the value of having direct ties to an agricultural university campus in our community. It is providing our agribusinesses with access to talent, research, and opportunities that help set them apart from their competition,” said Mayor Canniff.
Chatham-Kent already grows more than 70 different types of crops and is Canada’s number one producer of tomatoes, carrots, seed corn, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkins. The Municipality is also working closely with the Ridgetown Campus to see if ginger can become a viable option for farmers in the area.
The Mayor has also been meeting with food processors including ConAgra Foods (Dresden), Harvest-Pac Products (Chatham), and Weil’s Food Processing (Wheatley) to understand their needs and to learn how Chatham-Kent can further support their development.
“People know that we are processing crops that reach major chains such as Sobeys, Loblaws, and Costco. One of the things people may not know is that we have a chocolate factory that is running at 100% capacity with three shifts,” said Mayor Canniff. “Not only that, but engineers at the Chatham facility have developed innovations that are being shared internationally across other plants that the company owns.”
When it comes to sharing information, we asked Mayor Canniff what strategies he would recommend agribusiness use when communicating with their communities.
“I’ve heard time and time again that the successful producers are finding ways to engage directly with the community. For example, Whyte’s Pickles which has recently launched the first phase of their new plant in Wallaceburg and is set to launch the second phase in 2020, has taken a proactive approach and has already attended several major community events over the past year,” said Mayor Canniff. “It’s helped them from both a brand perspective and it’s accelerated their employee attraction efforts.”
Agriculture is a $3 billion plus economic driver for Chatham-Kent. “We are a welcoming community, and when a business looks to invest in our region we do everything we can to help them. Investors will find an Economic Development team who will work with them every step of the way, which has been a huge part of our success strategy,” said Stuart McFadden, Director of Chatham-Kent Economic Development. “For example, we are proud to say that the headquarters for Corteva Agriscience (formerly Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited), a division of DuPont and a major agricultural seed breeding and biotechnology company, are located in Chatham-Kent.”
“Overall, some of the most important things I’ve learned on my tour across our community is that we have people running businesses that are proud to call Chatham-Kent home. They love that the community offers their employees a comfortable mix of rural and urban lifestyles that are affordable and healthy,” said Mayor Canniff. “Sure we talk a great deal about business, but we also talk about how Chatham-Kent is a place where families can actually enjoy life, and that’s something that makes me very proud.”
For more information about agriculture in Chatham-Kent, visit us online at www.investck.ca.
There are over 2,200 farms in Chatham-Kent and 32 manufacturing businesses dedicated to food, beverage, and tobacco. This makes for a very busy and exciting harvest season.
Marketing and Communications Officer, Economic Development Services
Municipality of Chatham-Kent
Phone: 519-352-8401 x2039