Now that half of Toronto’s population is classified as ‘recent immigrants’, it’s not surprising that research is being conducted on new (to some of us) “ethno-cultural” vegetables. A news story published last year reported on research examining the market potential of vegetable crops popular with South Asian and Afro-Caribbean consumers, and their suitability for cultivation in Ontario. The work being done includes field trials, market research and consumer taste tests.
Some of the crops that were being studied included Indian kaddu, Chinese red hot pepper, okra, yard long bean, Asian eggplant, amaranth, fuzzy melon, round eggplant, maca, tomatillo, bottle gourd, daikon radish and Indian red carrot. A study completed in 2010 showed major ethnic groups in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) spend more than $61 million monthly on fresh produce. Much of it is being imported.
In Innisfil, about 1,300 people or just 3.9% of the population is classified as belonging to a ‘visible minority’ compared to 23% of Ontario’s population. As Innisfil grows, the trend to a more diverse population is clear. Statistics Canada data from the 2006 census concerning ethnic origin (first, second and later generations) shows that ancestry related to the British Isles still predominated in Innisfil (59%) and Barrie (58%). But that left 37% of the population in Innisfil and 40% in Barrie that were neither of British nor French descent. The next prominent ancestral origins are West, South and East European.
Innisfil and Barrie are also home to residents from Asian, East Asian, South East Asian, Caribbean, Latin American, African and Arab countries. People from those diverse regions numbered about 1,100 in Innisfil and almost 7,000 in Barrie in 2006. Although these cultural communities may not appear as a large percentage of the total population they are a demographic and a market that shouldn’t be ignored by growers, farmers’ markets and retailers.