Supplies of organic dark leafy greens from Ontario are currently ample.
Christopher Morrison of Pfenning's Organic Farms with freshly harvested kale. Photo: Stacey Newman.
“We’re actually ahead of the game,” says Lauren Stallard of Pfenning’s Organic Farms in New Hamburg, ON, which is currently in production with kales, dandelion and collard greens and chards. “Often with kales we don’t usually start until the middle of July but we’ve been going for a few weeks now because everything started a few weeks early.” She notes while supplies are strong on all leafy greens, they are especially so on the chards and dandelion greens.
The season kicked off early due to a number of factors including spring weather that allowed for Pfenning’s, which is celebrating its 40th year in 2021, to start transplanting earlier than normal. “We’re also lucky to not have the labor gaps that we did last year--a number of our colleagues come up from Jamaica every year and we were quite a bit behind with things in 2020,” says Stallard.
Due to their heartier nature, kale and collard green supplies will likely go longer into the fall through November. Chards and dandelions generally wrap up around the end of October.
Meeting that strong supply is steady demand. “In talking with other growers too, on items like kale we’re not seeing as much demand. But last year the demand surge was great. So it’s steady now but not at the intense level we were seeing in 2020,” says Stallard.
This year's spring weather allowed Pfenning's to begin transplanting earlier than usual. Photo: Stacey Newman.
Possibly factoring into that softened demand could be the reopening of foodservice outlets in Ontario. (Pfenning’s also ships to Quebec and the Eastern U.S.) “With restaurants reopening and second vaccinations, people are getting out and having more of a summer than last year,” says Stallard.
Educating consumers about greens
Aside from kale which has moved into more of a staple vegetable item, to help boost demand on some of the leafy green items, Stallard notes Pfenning’s continues to work on helping educate consumers about these products. “Collards and chards grow really well here and when we have volume on something like chards, we try to collaborate with our customers to do a feature in their e-blast or we provide tips on handling them or how to make them look good on the shelf,” she says, noting Pfenning’s also creates social media posts to educate consumers online.
Jennifer Pfenning of Pfenning's Organic Farms. Photo: Stacey Newman.
As for pricing, it is similar to last year at this time. “It’s important that pricing is sustainable. While we’re seeing some volume, it’s important we’re not lowering the prices too quickly so they’re in a fairly good, sustainable place right now,” says Stallard.