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Asparagus season underway across Southwestern Ontario


Asparagus season is on in southern Ontario as the harvest gets into full swing between early May and mid-to-late June.

IN PICTURES: Asparagus harvest in southwestern Ontario

Things got underway last week at Kerr Farms in Chatham-Kent where about 54 acres of organic asparagus grows.

“We got the field worked up without nipping off any spears, and there is no frost in the forecast. Frost would do us the most harm, especially as the asparagus is getting started into production,” said owner, Bob Kerr.Kerr Farms asparagus on Fairview Line in Chatham-Kent, Ont. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

Kerr has been growing asparagus since 1969 and oversees the manual harvest of roughly 75 tonnes of asparagus.

“We measure quality and I think our asparagus is the tastiest and most delicious around but all local asparagus is excellent,” said Kerr.

Asparagus is a perennial plant that can grow upwards of 25 centimetres (10 inches) during a 24 period under the right conditions.

“Asparagus likes warm and dry weather and does not like to have wet feet,” stated Kerr.

Kerr said offshore workers from Trinidad and Mexico use personal motorized buggies to traverse over the fields before selling the product to local wholesalers and the eastern seaboard in the U.S. market.

“Last year was okay,” he explained. “We started into production and inflation started to hit. The asparagus wasn't moving. We shipped our first order, it didn't move the way the retailers expected and they canceled the next order and then we had a surplus and it took about 10 days for the market to clear and after that the market was fine. So, there are always changes.”

“Some years, if there is an abundance of asparagus either from Mexico or Washington State or New Jersey, if the market is oversupplied, sometimes there's a depressed pricing situation. But, that's one of the benefits of growing organically is that we've missed out on part of that. We found that the supply and demand balance has been more consistent.”

Kerr continued, “We've changed our method of farming. We're caring more for the soil. We're looking after the microbial life in the soil and the microbial life transforms nutrition into the forms that the plant can use. And as a result of that is tasty, delicious asparagus.”

Kerr told CTV News Chatham-Kent is considered to be the second largest producer of asparagus in Ontario behind Norfolk County.

He said asparagus is a tremendous antioxidant and is low in calories and is the first locally grown vegetable to be harvested each year.

“I think we're improving. You know, perfection is elusive.”

According to the Asparagus Grower’s of Ontario, asparagus is very good for you and is considered a nutrient powerhouse. They note it can help reduce heart disease and may help reduce the risk of some types of cancer. The vegetable has just 4 calories per spear, is an excellent source of folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin K and provides a significant source of the antioxidants, gluthathione and rutin.

Mean time, anticipation for local asparagus was budding in Essex County before spring began at Wrightland Farm on Ridge Road in Harrow, Ont.

Owner Keith Wright said anytime warm weather came around in February or March, curious customers were calling, noting agri-tourism has brought many customers to the farm.

“They cant wait to get their first fill of asparagus,” Wright said. “It’s the first crop out of the ground.”

Wright said, noting he and his wife have reduced their operation over the last couple years due to a lack of local help and the economy.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, we are about the only asparagus growers left in Essex County.”

“We’re getting people, new people, daily, calling, where are you and they’re lost. They’re coming from Windsor and there abouts. They’re driving all this way because they want fresh asparagus,” Wright explained.

Wright said a traditional start to the season began in early May after some initial hope things could have started sooner.

“Low and behold Mother Nature had a way of correcting herself and we got a real deep freeze on April 25th and that froze everything,” Wright recalled. “It’s been pretty good, but the freeze naturally took a lot of that first flush off.” Top Stories

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