New study highlights sustainability of Ontario fruits and vegetables

News Release

New study highlights sustainability of Ontario fruits and vegetables
Growers using wide range of environmentally sustainable practices on-farm

For immediate release

Guelph ON, 22 April 2024 – A new study shows that over the last two decades, Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers have been widely adopting a range of practices that support sustainable local food production.

This includes investments in technologies and practices that support more efficient use of water, energy and fertilizer; use of tools like soil testing and cover crops; and reducing water and synthetic pesticide use.

“As we mark Earth Day, this study shows very clearly that Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers are prioritizing sustainable production and have voluntarily been making major strides in the last two decades to adopt practices that support both environmental and economic sustainability,” says Shawn Brenn, a vegetable grower and Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA). “We’re a proud part of Ontario’s food system and we want Ontarians to know that we’re doing our part to ensure a greener future for all of us.”

In the greenhouse sector, 95% of survey respondents use water efficient irrigation systems, insulation for more efficient energy use and biological pest control systems. More than two thirds report having installed more energy efficient boilers, climate control and irrigation systems over the last 20 years, as well as heat storage and energy curtains and screens to reduce their energy use. About half have transitioned to more energy efficient lighting, and close to one-third are using renewable energy and/or capturing and re-using carbon for crop growth.

In outdoor crop production, 85% of growers report using crop scouting and pest monitoring to target crop protection applications only as needed, 80% are using soil test results to guide more precise fertilizer application, and 78% are planting cover crops to keep the soil healthy and support carbon capture.

The study also found that growers are willing to continue making changes and that addressing broader industry issues around competitiveness, taxation, red tape and regulatory burdens combined with incentive initiatives will make it easier for growers to expand their adoption of sustainable practices.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in the last two decades, and growers are willing to do more, but farms need to also be financially viable, which includes a streamlined regulatory environment, financial investments and the consumer support,” adds greenhouse grower Jan VanderHout, Chair of the OFVGA Environment and Conservation committee. “Fruit and vegetable production is an essential pillar of our local food system and it’s critical to Canada’s national security that we do everything we can to preserve and protect our ability to grow healthy, safe and sustainable produce.”

The study was completed over the last year by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and involved a combination of surveys and in-depth interviews with growers from across Ontario’s fruit and vegetable sector.

The OFVGA is one of the province’s oldest farm organizations and is the voice of Ontario’s 3,500 fruit and vegetable farmers on issues affecting the horticulture sector, including food security, sustainability, and grower profitability and competitiveness. The sector grows produce in fields and greenhouses across the province for fresh and processed consumption. Visit or follow @OntFruitVeg on Twitter or on Facebook at


For more information:
Gordon Stock, Senior Policy and Government Relations Advisor,
Ben Murray, Communications Advisor,



Background information

About fruit and vegetable production in Ontario:

  • Ontario’s fruit and vegetable sector contributes $4.2 billion to the Ontario economy every year and supports more than 100,000 jobs on-farm and across the fruit and vegetable supply chain.
  • Ontario is home to more than one-third of Canada’s total fruit and vegetable production and is the biggest producer of many crops, including apples, field tomatoes, greenhouse vegetables, grapes, and sweet corn. Ontario has the most vegetable greenhouses in Canada, covering almost 3,900 acres or about 9,650 Canadian hockey rinks.
  • Over 125 different fruits and vegetables are grown in the province on 245,000 acres of land. This includes many long-time favourites like apples, peaches, pears, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, carrots, peppers, onions, lettuce, potatoes, asparagus, cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes, but also crops like ginseng, cranberries, garlic, cherries, apricots, hazelnuts, haskap berries and many more.

Additional study results:

  • Top three reasons to adopt sustainable practices for both greenhouse and outdoor growers:
    • economic/cost savings
    • desire to be environmentally sustainable
    • improve the quality of their products.
  • Top three challenges in adopting sustainable practices:
    • Outdoor growers:
      • cost of sustainable practices, technology or equipment vs return
      • high operating costs mean minimal margin available for adopting new practices and technologies
      • lack of time and capacity (e.g. labour) to experiment with new practices and technologies within acceptable weather/seasonal timelines
    • Greenhouse growers:
      • cost of sustainable practices, technology or equipment vs return
      • high operating costs mean minimal margin available for adopting new practices and technologies
      • regulatory hurdles related to permitting and approvals
  • Top three resources that have been most helpful to growers in adopting sustainable practices:
    • Outdoor growers: networking with peers, researchers or research studies, government funding programs
    • Greenhouse growers: networking with peers, government funding programs, private consultants
  • 96% of greenhouse respondents and 78% of outdoor grower respondents follow at least one sustainability certification program or assessment, with the most popular being the Environmental Farm Plan.
  • Outdoor growers are increasingly using technologies and techniques to protect their crops against the changing climate, including growing hardier varieties, installing fans to ward off frost and using netting to protect against hail and wildlife damage.