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Potato farmers’ pride and love for land is without equal

It’s May, and you know what that means: the unofficial start of summer in Canada! Canadians get their first long weekend and (fingers crossed) a healthy dose of gorgeous weather. When the snow melts, we’re reminded of something at the core of being Canadian – the depth of our love for our land.

McCain’s potato farmer partners love the land too, but they love it a little differently. For our farmers, the land is a source of pride and passion. It helps them feed millions of families across the country. So, for farmers May is more like New Year’s – a time to reflect on past achievements and prepare the land for achievements to come. Why? Because It all starts in May, planting season in Canada, where another cycle of life begins and potato farmers consider the impact of their work – through their land and often their own families.

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Harris Bakker of Killoween Farms, for instance, comes from a generations-old farming family in the Netherlands. “My grandfather felt he could do better in Canada,” Bakker says, “so they made a big transition to come here, buy a farm, and grow spuds for McCain.” Some of our families go back even further. Charles Culberson tells us that “the first Culberson – my great, great, great, great grandfather, came to Canada in 1820.” Charles still farms the original ground his ancestor tilled 200 years ago. This sense of legacy fuels our farmers’ pride in their work.

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The enduring presence of family in potato farming means that, for every generation of growers, this business is a family passion. It’s a passion that always starts young. McCain farmer partner, Paul Levesque of Les Fermes told us how his childhood jumpstarted his growing career. “Growing up I loved to be on the farm and did chores all the time,” Paul says, “I’ve been farming ever since… and now my two boys are learning to work on the farm.”​

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Every potato farmer has a time of year that particularly fills them with pride, and for many, it’s the planting season. But, that’s not true for Alberta’s Lyndon Nakamura – his favourite time is when the harvest starts in the fall, and the air is filled with the smell of fresh potatoes and earthy soil. “It really makes a farmer smile,” Lyndon says.

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Which begs the question – what special moments happen when potato farmers find themselves thinking, “I love my job”? There are a million answers to that question. For some it’s the drive across the fields at the end of a long day and the happy thought, “I planted that field, and those are my potatoes” – as Harris Bakker puts it, the “pride that you feel when you finally get to see the vegetables of your labour.” For others, it’s seeing potato products leaving a McCain plant, and knowing what an important part they play in feeding millions.

No matter the moment, there’s something special about being a potato farmer. Our farmers grow right along with their crops year after year. And when a new generation of sons and daughters take over their family farms, it’s just like a new planting season – a chance for something new and better than ever before. Our farmers have a lot to be proud of. Thank you to our McCain farmer partners for sharing their stories, and for the pride and passion they bring to their work every day.