From hops to kale, Canadian farmers are expanding their planting seasons with crops rarely seen in large amounts in this region before. Following current diet trends and attempting to predict future trends, farmers are diversifying their fields to provide the most profitable crops both now and in the future. So what are these trends that are changing farming?
Quinoa is perhaps one of the most popular options across the provinces, followed by kale, hops, sweet potatoes, garlic, and Chinese vegetables. Not surprisingly, hemp is surging in demand, and farmers are jumping at the chance to grow this option which has an increasing number of commercial uses.
The interest in these specialty crops comes as a response to the falling prices of more popular products like wheat and canola, which previously dominated the market. In the last several years, though, the anti-gluten trend as well as emerging "clean eating" diets have caused demand for wheat and canola to drop significantly, according to Top Crop Manager. While wheat will likely always be a staple item around the world, specialty crops are rapidly replacing these plants in standard diets.
Attention to the rising popularity of quinoa, has paid off for farmers like Jamie Draves, who has spent the last seven years improving his quinoa grain. He now claims to have the most nutritious option on the market, and is now producing his quinoa through his company Katan Kitchens, which claims to have the most nutritious end-product available in retail stores across the country.
Though Draves is experiencing great success with his quinoa, there is still plenty of room for other farmers to cash in on demand. In fact, in an interview for Top Crop Manager, Draves states, "We're nowhere near satisfying that market demand in Canada yet," as eight million kilograms are being imported into the country every year, and that number is only rising. Currently over 11,000 acres of land are devoted to producing the crop, with the majority of quinoa grown in Saskatchewan, which provided over 9,500 acres.
Kale is also quickly growing in demand, with an almost 400 percent increase in production according to a recent article in the Financial Post. Still coming in second to quinoa, almost 450 acres of kale were reportedly grown in 2016, but that number, too, is expected to increase in coming years. Most kale is currently grown in Ontario.
As microbreweries and craft beer companies pop up, the demand for hops continues to surge. There are currently about 800 acres of land devoted to hops growth, which presents a great opportunity for farmers to jump on before the market is saturated. Since the craft beer market seems to only become more popular as years pass, it doesn't look like demand will be waning any time soon.
Perhaps the least surprising, and most widely useable, new crop on the market is industrial hemp following the 1998 lift of the Narcotics Control Act of 1937. Since the lift of the ban, over one thousand commercial licenses have been issued to grow hemp. In order to meet standards for non-drug cultivation in Canada, hemp must be produced with less than .3 percent THC, the ingredient that causes the well-known "high" when the plant is smoked. Making this product low low in THC is relatively easy, and hemp is in extreme demand across industries such as textiles, construction, and research.
New seasons bring new opportunities for expanding crop choices, and this season, farmers are considering these top health food trends when planning their fields. Everything from quinoa to hemp is gaining popularity among Canadian farmers, and the need for these products isn't even close to being filled. The next few years should show even more land devoted to these specialty crops in order to meet consumer needs. Any of these could end up being a profitable investment, but farmers should also be on the lookout for new diet trends or specialty hobbies to catch additional opportunities as they grow in popularity.