With its Ohio facility getting ready to focus on organic strawberries this fall and the addition of an organic snacking tomato, the Ontario, Canada-based Nature Fresh Farms continues to expand its presence in the organic sector.
The greenhouse specialty company, founded in 1999 by mechanical engineer Peter Quiring, started producing its first organic crop in 2016. That year, organic production represented approximately 2 percent of its total acreage.
“By 2023, we will have about 45 percent of our owned growing area dedicated to organic supply, and [we] are a full-line organic grower/packer/shipper,” said Matt Quiring, senior vice president of sales & marketing and son of the founder.
Matt Quiring, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Nature Fresh Farms
Nature Fresh Farms started with the concept of building a state-of-the-art greenhouse operation to sell to farmers. But instead of finding buyers for the greenhouse, Peter Quiring fell in love with the process of growing from seed to fork. The company kept improving and expanding and has become one of the larger independent greenhouse produce growers in Canada.
“By 2023, we will have about 45 percent of our owned growing area dedicated to organic supply, and [we] are a full-line organic grower/packer/shipper.” - Matt Quiring
In 2010, Nature Fresh Farms started marketing its own production, and in 2015, it expanded its footprint into the US with a facility in Delta, Ohio. Its core commodities are conventional and organic greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, and it will add organic strawberries to the mix this fall.
“Over the past five years, Nature Fresh Farms has been quite optimistic about organics,” said Quiring. “We decided that we wanted to be the grower of choice for our retailers, foodservice, and wholesale partners for their organic tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.”
Growing indoors allows the company to avoid any major supply disruptions, offering year-round organic supply on all tomato, pepper, and cucumber SKUs within their product portfolio. “Today, our organic produce accounts for roughly 10 percent of our total tonnage. By 2023, we will be closer to 20 percent of the total tonnage we sell,” Quiring said, reiterating that closer to 45 percent of its own growing area is dedicated to organic produce.
“We decided that we wanted to be the grower of choice for our retailers, foodservice, and wholesale partners for their organic tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.” - Matt Quiring
Two of the company’s more exciting new initiatives involve tomatoes and strawberries.
Nature Fresh will soon launch its new snacking tomato-on-the-vine brand called Hiiros. “[These] deep red, on-the-vine snacking tomatoes have a unique umami flavor that is unlike any tomato on the market,” Quiring explained. “In 2002, umami receptors on the human tongue were discovered. Since then, it has been identified as the core 5th taste—adding to the sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes.”
Nature Fresh Farms Hiiros
Umami, which translates to “essence of deliciousness,” has been named a major food trend for 2022. “‘Hiiros’ is Japanese for 'scarlet' or 'brilliant red,' which is fitting due to the tomato’s distinguished color and Japanese origin,” Quiring said. “It will be exciting to get this new and exciting flavor offering into our organic and conventional product assortment this year.”
“[These] deep red, on-the-vine snacking tomatoes have a unique umami flavor that is unlike any tomato on the market.” - Matt Quiring
The new organic strawberry crop is the result of a 45-acre greenhouse expansion in the company's Ohio operation. “This facility will be focused on organic strawberry production throughout the months that organic berries are in the most distressed position—October thru June,” said Quiring, noting that the production will be targeted to organic consumers in the Northeast. “We foresee major opportunities here because there is such a void in production for periods of the year, and demand continues to explode for organic berries.”
Nature Fresh is bullish on the opportunities for organics. “We continue to see consumers' decisions swaying to higher-flavor or snack-driven offerings. Snacking tomatoes—particularly our on-the-vine snacking tomatoes—is a lineup that is performing well. We also continue to see consumers drive their dollars with organic mini cucumbers,” Quiring said. “It is a trend that is consistent with conventional product and validates that shoppers are seeking out food that they trust and enjoy.”
And of course, Nature Fresh Farms expects to see continued growth in the greenhouse sector. “We see ‘Greenhouse Grown’ as the way forward,” Quiring said. “As growers, we impact how we, as people, nourish and sustain ourselves. People rely on us to provide quality produce day after day. This is increasingly important as climate change threatens to disrupt our food systems.”