Canada Banana Farms plans rapid expansion -

Canada Banana Farms plans rapid expansion

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Canada Banana Farms plans rapid expansion

What began as a form of therapy for Terry Brake after a car accident has become a viable business to provide local bananas to markets in the cool climes of Ontario. Canada Banana Farms 1

After the accident 11 years ago Brake had a stroke and had to learn how to walk and talk again, and he also had to give up his previous work as a mechanical engineer.

"My doctor that was taking care of me gave me a [banana] plant to look after and he said if I can grow this maybe this is what my future would be," he tells

"I was 38 years old when it happened and I was too young to sit around doing nothing, so I needed something to get me going again. It was good therapy.

"It kind of got me through the hard times."

It was about seven years ago that his caregiver Lauren McPherson noticed Brake's bananas growing in the basement; a fateful observation that was to give rise to the purchase of land to start cultivating the fruit on a larger scale in 2010.

"They were just in in a pot with a growing light. They gave bananas but they were pretty small," he says of the basement set-up.

"But as soon as we built the hoophouses and put the banana plants in them they came to a nicer size and were a little bigger. It took a couple of years to get them where we are today.

"They take about eight months from start to finish to produce a banana."

Canada Banana Farms 2McPherson is the owner of Canada Banana Farms and Brake is the administrator, running what is currently four hoophouses of which three are dedicated to vegetables and one is dedicated to tropical fruit; not just bananas but guavas, pineapples, mangoes, papaya and citrus fruit.

It is not currently a very big operation, covering just a quarter of an acre, but the plan over the next to years is to reach six acres with 100 hoophouses.

"We're we’re going to have 80% of them for tropical and 20% for vegetables," Brake says.

Readers can click here for photos of the operation on Canada Banana Farms' Facebook page. 

But can the finished product compete with bananas from large commercial operations in South America?

"On a like-for-like basis, one acre of our bananas equals three acres of a plantation down in Costa Rica, because we don’t have any winds to knock them down, we don’t have any pests to eat them, and we don’t have any marauders or disease," he says.

"So we have a smaller area but we’re producing more per square foot than they do in the tropics.

"We don’t use any chemicals at all. The finished product is a lot better – it’s fresher, it’s creamier, it’s picked the day that we bring it to the market. And we also have a market at our place and they’re picked when we’re standing there."

The company's goods on sale at the Goderich Market

The company's goods on sale at the Goderich Market

He says the hoophouses need fans to reduce moisture levels, which left as normal would be at around an 85% level, while all the heating is done with wood collected in a sustainable way from an adjacent forest also owned by McPherson.

"It's a renewable resource – we cut trees and come back in about 20 years in that portion and start cutting all over again. So we have a 20-year plan for trees.

"We don’t replant. Nature takes care of itself. We don't clear out the whole area - the trees that are standing, seed trees we call them, drop seeds that create more trees.

He adds it is also much cheaper to grow the fruit in Canada given the great expense of shipping the competing fruit all the way from Central America, and the effects that also has on freshness.

"With ours you just pick them and take them the same day – there’s no extra cost, it’s good for the green movement, it’s good for the planet.

"We have the Goderich market where we go to every Saturday from May to October, and we have the Exeter market on Thursday from May to October, and in the winter months from October to May we do it right out of the farm. It’s a year –round operation."

Brake says sales to other parts of the province could be possible with greater production from the expansion, while he also encourages others to take up similar banana-growing initiatives across Canada.

"We have some people now that are interested in doing it in other parts of Ontario, and we have a person in Quebec who is doing it now too," he adds.



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