What is the Ontario Food Terminal?
The Ontario Food Terminal (OFT) is the largest wholesale fruit and produce distribution center in Canada, and the only one of its kind. It’s also the third largest produce market in North America, right after New York City and Los Angeles. It is the stock exchange of fruits and vegetables, where prices are determined by daily or even hourly by supply and demand. The existence of the OFT has a direct impact on the price consumers pay for their fresh vegetables and fruits; keeping prices competitive and allowing access to market for growers of all sizes. It is a self-funding classified agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This means that it’s entirely financed by those who work at the site, and doesn’t rely on tax dollars to function.
Who Uses the Ontario Food Terminal?
Participants consist of 5,000 registered buyers, 21 warehouse tenants, 400 farmers’ market tenants and 50 office tenants. Over 3,500 produce growers are represented at the OTF.
Each of the 5,000 buyers employ a minimum of 20 persons per buyer, and buyers come from all over Ontario, New Brunswick, PEI, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba as well as the north-eastern USA.
Farmers come in from as far north as Cold Water, from Leamington to the west, from Kingston to the east and Fort Erie to the south.
How Much Produce is Distributed Annually?
Two billion pounds of fresh produce is distributed annually or, in other words, an average of 5.5 million pounds per day. For every truckload sold on site, it is estimated that 2 to 3 truckloads are directly delivered to the retailer from the farm, or from the warehouse tenant’s offsite warehouse.
It is also estimated that over 1 million vehicles enter the terminal annually.
What Kind of Facility is the Ontario Food Terminal?
The terminal site consists of a Farmers’ Market area with 550 stalls, a Warehouse unit area, a central cold storage that is 100,000 square feet in size, two restaurants, and a parking deck with 550 employee car parking spaces.
The facility contributes at least 100,000 direct and indirect jobs to the Ontario economy. This number does not take into account farm employment of both direct and indirect nor does it include those employed at the Terminal itself or the service jobs that support those businesses at the OFT, the farms or retailers.
What Else Do I Need to Know About the Ontario Food Terminal?
The OFT has supported the BUY LOCAL movement since its establishment in 1954. The Terminal supports local farmers, local fruit and vegetables stores, independent and chain supermarkets, retailers, restauranteurs, food service, caterers, farmer’s markets, farm gate markets, florists, garden centres, landscapers, convenience stores and institutions.
The OFT is an economic generator; for every dollar of sales, approximately three dollars are returned to the provincial economy. Essentially, it’s a unique asset and is considered to be a public health jewel of Ontario by those in the industry.
What is the connection to Produce Made Simple?
Produce Made Simple is an educational campaign that is owned by the Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Our offices are located at the Terminal so we are directly connected to those working in the industry; those who grow, pack and sell fresh produce! Our tips and advice are often provided and checked by those who have worked in this industry for their entire careers.