Story of Guts & Resilience:How the "Tomato Capital of Canada" Refused to Give Up

Story of Guts & Resilience:How the "Tomato Capital of Canada" Refused to Give Up

A Journey into Leamington, Ontario

It’s an inspirational story, one of ingenuity and a smart community narrative in one. It’s a small town Canadian story at its best. And, it’s a life lesson to us all.

It’s the story of how Leamington, Ontario refused to be defeated.

Leamington, due to its location in the southernmost part of Canada, called itself the “Sun Parlour of Canada”. It also called itself the “tomato capital of Canada”, but recently found itself in jeopardy when a century-old Heinz ketchup plant announced plans to close and lay off its 740 workers.

And, that is where the story started as told in the New York Times:

Heinz has left a deep mark on this town, the self-proclaimed “tomato capital of Canada” that sits on the shore of Lake Erie.

There is the tourist booth shaped like a giant tomato that was partly funded by Heinz in 1961. The annual tomato festival that was originally a company picnic. Most everyone has a family member who has worked at the century-old Heinz plant here.

Residents feared the worst when a group of investors bought Heinz in 2013. The investors, 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway, Warren E. Buffet’s company, announced plans to close the plant and gave layoff notices to its 740 workers.

But Leamington — and the plant — got a reprieve because, in part, of a quirk of Canadian law. A 54-year-old regulation bans using tomato paste to make tomato juice.

Although the plant has changed hands, Heinz is its biggest customer. Along with tomato juice, the plant now makes soups, sauces and SpongeBob SquarePants canned pasta. The air around downtown is still filled with the scent of cooked tomatoes.

“It’s really quite unusual, this whole story,” said David Dick, a tomato seedling grower whose family’s dealings with Heinz date from 1936. “I’m really dumbfounded by it all. This really rose from the ashes.”

Here is the rest of that great story from the Times (Also in The Financial Post).


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