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Clean local environment suits organically grown products.

Clean local environment suits organically grown products

One can never tell what answering a newspaper advertisement can lead to.

Several years ago, for example, Gerhard and Gabrielle Latka saw a real estate advertisement for a Parry Sound home in their German newspaper. They arranged to see the property during a Canadian vacation and ended up opening a business in Parry Sound early last year.

To the Latkas, Parry Sound was a nice area with a clean, healthy environment which fit well with the organically grown product they wanted to develop and market. Its location as the southern-most community in Northern Ontario made it ideal for marketing to the south, while being eligible for Northern Ontario grants. Because of these advantages and after two years of planning, the couple bought and remodelled a former laundromat in 1989.

"It was an excellent location for a business," explains Gerhard Latka, who incorporated Crofters Food Ltd. in January of 1989. Under this name, the Latkas make jams, jellies and fruit juices from organically grown fruits.

Company headquarters is a 4,800-square-foot building the Latkas renovated using $212,000 in grants from the Northern Ontario Development Corporation and FedNor. A second 1,800-square-foot building nearby provides storage.

"It's hard to open a new small business in Germany," explains Gabrielle Latka, who, along with her husband and one other employee, currently works full-time for Crofters Food Ltd. She praises Canadian opportunities.

According to her, the health food market is more developed in Europe where people are more conscious of the problems of pollution. Such businesses are relatively new in Canada, but the market is growing as more people become aware of the type and danger of pollutants which can enter the food chain.

Because the industry is still developing, one of the Latkas' main difficulties is getting organically grown produce. To achieve this, the couple drive as far away as Niagara Falls and Quebec City in search of fruits which have been certified by such groups as the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), which inspects and regulates organic growers.

"Last year we couldn't get organically grown cherries or blackberries," admits Gerhard Latka, who contracts for blueberries handpicked by Northern Ontario natives.

Crofters Food Ltd. processing follows strict OCIA regulations, which include the use of stainless steel production equipment, refrigerated transportation and storage and steam-pressure washing and packaging in glass containers. Such care is necessary, however, for the Latkas' market.

"As well as selling through our own small retail outlet in Parry Sound, we're marketing through specialty shops - mainly in Ontario, and currently pursuing the American market," explains Gerhard Latka.

His 1989 production consisted of 25,000 250-ml units of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry jam, wholesaling at $2.50 each, and 35,000 750-ml units of unclarified apple juice, wholesaling at $1.80 each.

HELEN MASON Correspondent
COPYRIGHT 1990 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Crofters Food Ltd. of Parry Sound, Ontario
Author:Mason, Helen
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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