Gail Martin, Independent Editor
Martin’s Family Fruit Farm received a welcome injection of cash on Wednesday.
Federal agricultural minister Gerry Ritz announced a grant of $1.5 million to help the apple processor develop a new product that could add 30 new jobs to Waterloo Region.
The money will go towards a new processing line for apple “crisps,” a new product made by slicing apples into rings and dehydrating them. Any left over byproduct would be used to create apple cider.
The new product would create a new market for second-grade apples, and is expected to increase demand for Canadian apples.
The announcement was made at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm’s processing facility and store on Lobsinger Line.
“This particular facility exemplifies today’s modern family-run state-of-the-art operation. Your success provides nearly 200 jobs to this community, as well as income to the 40 farmers who supplement the food supply here,” said Ritz. He noted it has been a difficult season for apple producers, and said that Martin’s new product is “an excellent example of how Canada’s agriculture sector is innovating to meet the growing demand for healthier, more natural foods.”
The $1.5 million comes from the federal government’s Agricultural Innovation Plan (AIP), a $50-million fund that is part of the Economic Action Plan, and designed to “facilitate innovation and adoption of new products, technologies, and processes that enhance economic growth,” according to a government press release.
The loan will cover half the cost of building the plant, and will be repaid once the plant begins turning a profit.
Woolwich Township mayor Todd Cowan said he was excited about the announcement.
“It’s a great announcement for the township of Woolwich,” said Cowan. “We’re grateful to the Martin family for choosing us (to expand).”
Kevin Martin, president of Martin’s Family Fruit Farm said that he was grateful to the help and support of Woolwich Township, which helped his company meet an aggressive timetable.
“There were people that when we gave them our timelines, said it wasn’t possible. The township worked hard to prove some people wrong,” said Martin.
Martin said the company made a conscious decision to create the apple crisps, not only to respond to a growing demand for healthy snacks, but to also provide extra value to their product, by using second-grade apples that would normally not be used for anything other than apple cider.
“We’ve been investing in new technology, new plantings and new apple varieties to provide Ontario with the safest, healthiest apples in the world,” said Martin. “We’re committed to new ideas, and are always trying to innovate and improve.”
Work on the new 17,000 square foot facility on Donway Court in Elmira has already started, with production of the apple crisps underway in mid-November.
While in Waterloo Region, Ritz also participated in a bus tour of the area, stopping at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, Floradale Feed Mill, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, as well as Martin’s Family Fruit Farm.
A round-table discussion with local producers took place at Martin’s, where Ritz highlighted a number of programs the government has introduced to help farmers, including the $50-million AIP, and a $500-million loan program through Farm Credit Canada to help young or beginning farmers start and grow their businesses.