During the week of June 15 I traveled to the town of Leamington, Ontario, Canada to see the latest greenhouse varieties. I went to this particular location because it lies at the center of the largest concentration of greenhouses in North America. Leamington is farther south than any other town in Canada, since it is on a point in Lake Erie. Even before greenhouses were popular, there was a lot of field tomato production in the area, so it is Canada’s “Tomatoville.”
Here is a selfie of me with the tourist info booth in Leamington, which is a giant tomato. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when I was there — or there would be a helpful person inside the giant tomato.
This proximity to such a large body of water gives the area a “lake effect” climate, which helps smooth out the spikes and dips in temperature, making it a good area for growing all kinds of crops. Because of the high number of growers in the area, this is where newly developed greenhouse varieties are trialed and demonstrated. For tomato nerds like myself, this is an exciting place to be because the demonstration greenhouses act as a “living catalog” where I can see new varieties growing and taste them and determine if they are something that Johnny’s customers would be interested in.
Unfortunately, because these demonstration greenhouses receive so many visitors, I was not allowed to take pictures in most of them. Biosecurity is taken very seriously, as pests or pathogens could be brought in on almost any object that has also been inside other greenhouses. Even the people have to cover up — see my photo below. Even if not taken to this extent, having some kind of plan to keep diseases out of the greenhouse is a good idea for every grower. This is especially important for growers who have field and greenhouse operations on the same farm. It is very easy for workers to bring pathogens into the greenhouse if they go straight from working on one crop in the field to working on the same crop in a greenhouse.
Luckily, I was able to take photos in some places, even if I had to put my phone in a bag.
It is always interesting to go to field days and see the new developments. Breeders are constantly working to help overcome the production problems of growers by developing new varieties that are more resistant to pests and diseases, and have better flavor. These kinds of visits also provide a great opportunity to learn and share ideas with other growers, find out what their difficulties are and how they are able to overcome them.
In this greenhouse, I was allowed to get some photos of the new varieties on display. Also, I was able to get someone else to take a picture of the type of precautions that are taken to ensure that no diseases make it into the greenhouse. There were some very nice new varieties this year, including new cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. Many of the new cucumbers for greenhouse production have resistance to cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV), a disease which is becoming more and more common in greenhouses in North America.
There were also some nice new tomato varieties on display. I am particularly excited about a very sweet and flavorful grape tomato for greenhouse production which may be available soon.
After three days in “Tomatoville,” I left town with many new growing ideas and potential new varieties in mind. It’s always great to visit and enjoy the warm hospitality of my Canadian hosts. For updates on these varieties, stay tuned to your next Johnny’s catalog to see if any of them make the cut in our trials this year and make it into the catalog.