POSSIBILITIES:  CROPS

Important considerations

Many farmers have added value to the crops they produce to increase their returns from the marketplace. It is important before investing in processing or packaging food products that the you consult with the Department of Health. Various regulations and licences apply to certain products. Similarly, selling products from the farm at farmers’ markets may require certain permits or licences.

 

A few moments spent with the Department of Health may save hours of heartache later on, simply by understanding in advance what is required. The federal Canada Agricultural Products Act and New Brunswick’s Natural Products Act have regulations dealing with the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables. These regulations deal with grades, standards, labels and packaging requirements both for intra- and inter-provincial trade.

 

Information about the federal regulations is at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/C.R.C.,_c._285/ and the provincial regulations: http://laws.gnb.ca/en/BROWSECHAPTER?listregulations=N-1.2&letter=N#N-1.2.

Potatoes

What do you need to be a potato farmer in New Brunswick?

 
  • Availability of crop land, depending on types of potatoes grown (seed or table stock) and enough acreage for proper rotation.

  • Labour available for planting, harvest and grading.

  • Access to land preparation, seeding, pest control and harvesting equipment.

  • A market – Many growers have contracts with the processors in New Brunswick. It cannot be assumed that non-contracted potatoes will be purchased by them.

New Brunswick is a great place to grow potatoes and has the fourth largest acreage in Canada and is one of the largest commodities in New Brunswick in terms of farmgate cash receipts.

 

Our soils are ideally suited to growing potatoes. There are many things to consider before you begin growing potatoes such as the type of potatoes and the market. The three main potato markets are for:

  • Seed;

  • Table stock;

  • Processing.

 

All three markets have different production requirements. You must take time to learn about the three sectors before starting to grow potatoes.

Setting up a commercial potato business can be very expensive. Specialized equipment for planting, hilling, spraying and harvesting as well as a warehouse for storage are required. Access to quality land is also essential and not available in all areas of New Brunswick. Using quality seed potatoes is of the utmost importance to ensure a quality crop and to meet regulatory requirements. Potato plants are targeted by a number of serious pests and diseases, so you must take care when growing the crop to ensure that it remains healthy.

 

At the Potato Development Centre, 39 Barker Lane in Wicklow, NB, a team of sector specialists are available to provide expertise and training on soil fertility, pest and disease management and rotational crops. Consultation on the regulatory requirements as well as on the best management practices for potato production and potato storage is also available.

Opportunities in the potato sector: Although New Brunswick is the home of the “French Fry Capital of the World” (Florenceville-Bristol), one struggles to find new opportunities in this mature sector. It is highly recommended that new entrants to farming secure sales contracts for the potatoes produced on their farms; either with the region’s potato processors or fresh packers. Since these customers deal in large volumes, a first-time potato producer may not have access to the required amounts of land, machinery or storage, therefore, may want to focus on the fresh local market (e.g., farmers’ markets).

 

Information and promotional materials are at www.potatoesnb.com/ and at www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/

Tree Fruit

What do you need to be a tree fruit farmer in New Brunswick?

 
  • An existing orchard or suitable soil of sufficient depth, drainage and location that lends itself to tree fruit production.

  • Varieties that are suited to the local climate and are marketable.

  • An understanding of soils, fertility, and plant health.

  • Sufficient employees for labour-intensive tasks (e.g., pruning and harvest).

  • Market demand for your produce through a retail store, U-Pick operation or a wholesale buyer to store and sell your fruit.

 

The commercial tree fruit industry in New Brunswick is concentrated in the central and southeast regions because of more suitable climate and soils. Tree varieties, rootstocks and growing systems (trellis versus free standing) must be adapted to each site. Potential orchards or new orchard sites must be thoroughly investigated prior to entering tree fruit production. There is limited commercial production of pears, peaches, cherries and plums due to winter hardiness and productivity issues, which is also true for many apple varieties.

 

The primary tree fruit produced in New Brunswick is apples, with annual production of approx. 200,000 bushels (3.8 million kgs). More than 30 apple varieties are grown commercially; however the main varieties are Cortland, Honeycrisp, McIntosh and Paula Red. Growers are developing more value-added products for direct sale such as sweet and hard cider, wines, pies and pastries. Agri-tourism adds value by attracting more consumers direct to the farm. The cost to establish a new, high-density orchard can exceed $62,000 per ha ($25,000 per acre).

 

Tree fruit production, as with many agriculture enterprises, requires a high degree of skill and knowledge in technical production and business management. Apples and tree fruit are high-value commodities grown around the world in a very competitive marketplace. Producers must be able to manage many factors well, including pest and disease pressures, to ensure consistent yields of high-quality fruit at a competitive price.

Small Fruit

What do you need to grow small fruits in New Brunswick?

 

  • The appropriate land for your crop.

  • Specialized equipment.

  • Planting stock (except for low bush blueberries).

  • Labour available at harvest time.

  • A market.

 

Blueberries

 

Low bush or wild blueberries are not planted; rather the production of wild native plants is managed. Therefore, if wild native plants are not already present, land cannot be developed for wild blueberries. Blueberries (wild and cultivated) require a low soil pH (4.0 - 5.5).

 

The wild blueberry sector is among the top six commodities in New Brunswick on a farmgate sales basis ($20 million in 2011). The capacity to process wild blueberrries has expanded substantially in New Brunswick recently. A significant percentage of wild blueberries are grown on Crown land leased to farmers, with additional land being dedicated for more production.

 

Processing and handling of blueberries take place at several facilities located around the province. Fresh and value-added on farm account for about one and a half to two percent of the wild blueberry production.

Strawberries and raspberries

 

Strawberries rank as the second most valuable small fruit crop, next to blueberries, in terms of farm cash receipts. They, like raspberries, require a higher pH soil (in the range of 5.5 – 6.5) and need a well-drained soil with a high sand content. They also need a certain amount of land for rotation to prevent disease and insect accumulation as well as a location that is accessible to markets. These crops also require irrigation.

 

Strawberries and raspberries are a very popular crop for U-Picks, especially near populated areas. These two crops, together with vegetables, yield a high rate of return per acre and are considered a good entry point for new entrants to get into agriculture, with a minimum investment required.

 

Cranberries

Cranberries are mainly grown in highly-engineered beds with ditches and dikes designed to control the water table. Irrigation systems are used to meet the water needs of the crop and for frost protection. Cranberry beds must be located near significant amounts of sand. Cranberries, as with wild blueberries, require a low soil pH (4.0 - 5.5).

 

Because there are limited direct markets for this crop, growers are leaning toward higher acreages to achieve economy of scale. The cost to develop a cranberry operation ranges between $40,000 and $50,000 per acre. Before building a cranberry bed, you should consult with the departments of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries and Environment and Local Government because there are additional requirements due to the nature and location of cranberry beds.

 

Other Small Fruits 

There is also some interest in the commercial production and/or wild harvesting of berry species with high nutrient content such as black currants, haskap and sea buckthorn. Good agronomic data for growing these crops under our conditions is limited as there has been little research on these crops carried out locally.

 

Furthermore, unless you have a buyer who brokers your fruit to reliable clients at a reasonable price, there will be a need to invest in educating potential clients about the value of these fruits and what can be done with them.

Vegetables

What do you need to be a vegetable farmer in New Brunswick?

 

  • Availability of well-drained and fertile crop land, with the amount of land required dependent on the type of vegetable farming (e.g., a large-scale farm versus a market garden).

  • Quality seeds or transplants.

  • Labour available for planting, weeding and harvesting.

  • Access to land preparation, seeding, pest control, harvesting equipment and possibly a transplanting greenhouse.

  • Adequate storage.

  • A market.

  • Access to irrigation

 

Despite a relatively short growing season, New Brunswick is a great place to grow most vegetables. A number of vegetable farmers sell their production to wholesalers, while most are small-scale farmers who tend relatively few acres and sell directly to consumers through farmers’ markets, roadside stands and U-Picks, and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

 

Vegetable farms are among the most diverse operations in the province:

  • the initial investment costs can be low (except for heated greenhouses and irrigation if needed);

  • there are no licences or regulations involved in production and marketing;

  • the potential revenue per acre can be relatively high compared with other crops;

  • it is easy to start small and gradually expand as a customer base develops.

Grain and oilseed crops

What do you need to be a grain farmer in New Brunswick?

 

  • Arable land with minimal production limitations due to drainage, slope, climate, pests and adverse soil properties such as pH and stones.  

  • Access to land preparation, seeding, pest control, harvesting and grain handling equipment, through ownership, rental or hire of custom operators.

  • A plan for producing and marketing grain crops.

  • Storage facilities for the grain, unless sold at time of harvest 

 

Historically, grain was produced in New Brunswick for livestock feed, either for on-farm use and for sale to other farms in Atlantic Canada. In recent years, grains have been produced as cash crops for sale directly to livestock farms or to livestock feed manufacturers who ship throughout the Atlantic region. Grain and oilseed crops play an important role in farm profitability either as a cash crop, through their role as a rotational crop or when used on-farm in livestock rations. The majority of grains and oilseeds continue to be produced largely in rotation with potatoes as cash crops or for on-farm use by livestock operations. A small portion is used directly for human consumption.

 

Higher yielding crops such as corn or higher value crops such as soybeans have been displacing the traditional cereal crops of barley, wheat and oats. Improvements in corn and soybean genetics continue to improve the adaptability of these crops to grow in new areas of the province. Available markets outside the province exist for soybean, canola, malt barley and milling oats; however, distance to market eats into revenues. Adequate handling and drying facilities exist in most areas of the province. 

 

The availability of these facilities aids in crop harvest timeliness and reduces the amount of on-farm storage requirements. When grown in rotation with potatoes, annual grains provide for a break in disease and insect pest cycles as well as aid in improving soil quality. Grains grown on potato farms allow for the use of existing equipment and facilities and reduce the investment that would be required in a start-up grain operation. Grain production often requires substantial investments in land and equipment, but grain production can be started with lower levels of capital if there is access to leased land and custom operators.

 

New Brunswick’s diverse climate and soil types allow a wide range of grains and oilseeds to be grown. In addition to the major crops of barley, oats, wheat and corn, soybeans and canola are now grown in significant quantities. Other cereals and oilseeds that have been grown successfully on a small scale include winter rye, triticale, sunflower, flaxseed, rapeseed, camelina, lupins and field peas.

 

Grapes

What do you need to produce wine in New Brunswick?

 

  • Deep, well-drained soil with a south-facing slope in a sheltered location.

  • Vines of grape cultivars that are in demand on the market and suited to your site and climate.

  • Vine trellises.

  • A licensed wine making facility, either owned or contract packed by an existing producer.

 

The wine industry has potential for future expansion as New Brunswick vintners are earning a reputation for winning national and international awards. Wine grape production is a highly specialized industry. It is imperative that growers, unfamiliar with vineyards conduct thorough research on the production and marketing of wine grapes before making any business decisions. Many of the wine producers in New Brunswick use other locally produced fruits to add to their line of products. Some of the more popular non-grape wines include blueberries, cranberries, pears, strawberries and apples as well as a combination of these. Many of these wines have won prestigious awards.

 

Certain conditions and licences are required to become a wine producer. Minimum acreage is required, and a licence must be obtained from NB Liquor before starting to produce or sell wine, beer or cider containing alcohol. It is advised to contact either the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries or NB Liquor to become informed about the various requirements for operating in this sector. Table grapes also grow well under New Brunswick conditions.

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