Ont. backs orchard for retail, educational offerings

A family-run orchard in southeastern Ontario plans to use public funding to add a learning centre and expand its retail and dining fare.

The provincial government has pledged $57,000 through its rural economic development program for the expansion plans at Grills Orchards, west of Belleville.

According to the province in a release last week, the funds will go toward construction of a new bakery and cafe highlighting local products and produce, and expansion of the farm’s current retail and storage facilities.

The expansion is expected to boost the number of area producers and processors supplying the farm from 23 to as many as 43, the province said, while creating up to nine full-time jobs at the farm and retaining four more.

The farm also plans to launch a “refreshed” marketing campaign to boost its current sales.

The added educational component will be a “learning centre focusing on farming practices and agricultural economies,” the province said.

Grills Orchards grows over a dozen different apple varieties and sells other produce such as pears, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, squash and pumpkins. Its other food offerings include cider, local maple syrup, honey, candies, jams, jellies, cheese, pies and locally raised beef.

The orchard has operated for over 80 years and has been owned by Randy and Diana McPherson since 1998. “This support will help our business not only survive, but also to thrive and expand,” Diana McPherson said in the province’s release.

“Ontario consumers are asking for more local food products and this project will help deliver results,” local MPP Lou Rinaldi said in the same release.

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