Margate Farms Ltd. of Kensington was named the 2011-2012 McCain Champion Potato Grower for P.E.I. during the annual McCain Growers’ Banquet at the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club in Summerside this week.
More than 170 guests gathered to celebrate the top growers and their achievements.
Allison McCain, chairman of McCain Foods Limited, and Darryl Rowe, president of McCain Foods (Canada), were on hand to extend personal congratulations to Steven and Harry Van der Veen and all of the McCain growers.
McCain talked about the importance of the growers to the company’s success and the importance of exports to the Canadian potato industry.
“We’re a little less competitive on the East Coast,” he said in urging growers to focus on increasing their yields.
“I’m not talking about increases of five or 10 hundredweight, but 50 or 100 hundredweight,” he said. “The increased yields will come through breakthroughs in potato varieties, technology and management practices.”
Rowe agreed that the need to become more competitive is the biggest issue facing the potato industry today.
“The cost of raw is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome in Eastern North America,” he said.
“Global shipping lanes are changing and we must be mindful of lower-cost European processors who can compete in our markets. I see it as an opportunity for growers, processors and government to work together now to ensure the potato industry in Eastern Canada remains viable 20 years from now.”
Master of ceremonies for the evening was field department manager Gordon Campbell. Other McCain personnel on hand to congratulate the growers included Steve McCain and Vernon Thomas, joint managing directors, McCain Produce Inc., Calla Farn, vice president, government/public relations and corporate affairs, McCain Foods (Canada), David Good, director of agriculture, supplier relations North America, Marc Kilfoil, P.E.I. plant manager, Patrick Rutter, senior production manager and P.E.I. site lead.
Special guests from the P.E.I. Potato Board included Gary Linkletter, chairman, Greg Donald, general manager and Scott Howatt, processing coordinator. The chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Processing Council, Vernon Campbell, also attended the event.
The Van der Veens were delighted when they were announced as the champion grower. They have been contracting with McCain Foods for 21 years and have placed in the top 10 roster four times, but this is their first time winning the Champion Grower award.
Harry van der Veen said it’s quite an achievement to be in the Top 10, but noted that it takes more than hard work and dedication to get there. Sometimes it takes a little luck, as well, he said.
“There’s a fine line between the Top 10 and any other grower,” he said. “The differences are very small. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw of that particular year.”
In addition to being awarded a keepsake trophy, a plaque and a $1,000 cheque, they will receive an all-expense-paid trip for two to a destination of choice for their achievement.
A special presentation was also made to Black Ponds Farms Ltd. of Souris as recipient of the McCain Environmental Award, which is given to the grower who achieves the top score for their good stewardship in initiatives such as energy reduction, soil conservation, water protection and optimal use of crop management products.
The director of agronomy, Yves Leclerc, and Leigh Morrow, director crop improvement, North America presented a congratulatory cheque for $1,000 and a plaque to Peter and Nathan Ching for this tremendous accomplishment.
Potatoes are rated throughout the year on a variety of factors, including size, gravity, defect level and colour and awarded points accordingly. At the end of each crop year, the top 10 growers are determined based on their overall scores.
The others growers who qualified for the top 10 roster, in order of final standing, were: Gaudette Farms Inc. (Earl Gaudette and Nora Dorgan – Tignish); Shorelane Farms Ltd. (Kenny, Billy and Clair MacLellan – Kensington); Linkletter Farms Ltd. (Gary, Dale and Mark Linkletter, Jim Marchbank – Summerside); Wallace Properties Ltd. (Johnny and Craig Wallace – Elmsdale); Melis and John Visser (Victoria); Willard Waugh & Sons (Gordon, Alan, Ronald and Andrew Waugh – Summerside); Smallken Farms Ltd. (Kent Smallman – Alma); Oliver Farms Ltd. (Billy Oliver – Greenmount); Oyster Creek Farms Inc. (Adair Shaw – Cascumpec).
Each received a plaque and a $1,000 cheque for their accomplishment.