February 24, 2020 By Top Crop Manager
Newfoundland-grown canola oil is now available in stores. The Hickey brothers of Sweet Berry Farms in Black Duck Siding, NL are the first in the province to produce cold-pressed virgin canola oil; they also grow the canola and bottle the oil themselves.
The oil is seen as a big win for the researchers with the province’s Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, which sowed its first canola seeds back in 2016 in a $1-million experiment to test the viability of the grain on the west coast.
“This is a long-term trial, but already in the last four years we’ve seen tremendous success,” said Sabrina Ellsworth, manager of agricultural research with the department.
Prior to the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources’ experiment, Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province not producing canola commercially. The Hickey brothers heard about the project and were interested in learning more, so they reached out to the government and ended up talking to Vanessa Kavanagh, provincial grain research specialist with the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency, who has been helping them for the past three years.
The brothers decided to use the dormant dairy farm they inherited from their father, but as the farm wasn’t ready to grow canola in 2019, they partnered with Pasadena farmer Wayne Smith to grow 20 acres of canola. They intend to grow canola on their own farm this year, with a bottling date to be determined later. Local food-grower Food for Life provided the equipment and space to press, screen and bottle their oil.
The brothers are quick to acknowledge all of the help they’ve had in bringing their dream to fruition, and credit the forthcoming and friendly nature of people in the agricultural industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sweet Berry Farms canola oil started appearing on the shelves of Coleman’s grocery stores across the province in May 2019; it’s also now available in four restaurants in St. John’s.
The province has partnered with several farms in western Newfoundland since, with the seed and oil used to feed dairy cows and replace imports from the mainland, and from as far away as Malaysia.