Northwest Ohio farmers to learn from successful European agricultural operation | UToledo News

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Northwest Ohio farmers to learn from successful European agricultural operation

As Americans become more concerned about the quality and rising costs of the food they buy and increasingly desire to buy local, a successful European agricultural operation could provide a model to enhance farming in northwest Ohio.

Mechelen Auctions in Belgium is one of Europe’s most successful and profitable agricultural ventures with a cooperative of more than 2,500 market gardeners providing vegetables to retailers.

Luc Peeters, the manager of external relations and sustainability for Mechelen Auctions, will spend three days in northwest Ohio touring farms and greenhouses and sharing information about their operations and the latest in greenhouse technology that helps maximize production.

Peeters will lead a seminar on “Greenhouse Crop Production, Distribution and Marketing in Belgium: A Model for 21st Century Agriculture” at 11:30 a.m. Monday, June 27, in the Toledo Botanical Gardens Terrace Room. Reservations are required.

“There are lessons we can learn from the successful Mechelen Auction that could be applied here to modernize our systems and help the greenhouse and agriculture industries grow,” said Dr. Neil Reid, director of the UT Urban Affairs Center. “In their system, the gardeners producing the vegetables for the auction are all located near the city, providing very fresh and local produce to the buyers.”

As it has become easier to transport fruits and vegetables from other states and countries, there are fewer locally grown items sold in area stores. Lessons from the operations in Belgium as well as the technology they use to maximize production could benefit local growers and spur area sales, said Joe Perlaky, program manager for Maumee Valley Growers.

Mechelen Auctions is primarily a vegetable auction for retailers and produce sellers, although there are some fruits and flowers as part of it. About 20 percent of the produce is cultivated in the open while 80 percent is in greenhouses, allowing year-round production.

The auctions system was started in 1950 and helped organize the market for producers as well as create uniformity for prices, quality control, packaging and terms of payment.

Peeters’ visit to Toledo is a follow-up to a February 2010 trip of researchers and staff from The University of Toledo and Maumee Valley Growers to Belgium to learn more about their food production and distribution system.

Reservations are required for Monday’s seminar and lunch. Contact Pamela Moore at 419.530.6012 or pamela.moore@utoledo.edu.

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