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One Sweet Summer: Growing Sweet Potatoes | S2 Ep 4 | Real Farm Lives

The main lesson I’ve learned from my father is to take your time and never
cut corners, you have no idea at the beginning of the season how the season’s
gonna end. Where I might have given up on a small field or crop he always knows to
push it to its full potential. Once you’ve started with it, stick with it and
see it through all the way to the end. I am Philip Keddy, and this is my father
Charles we are Charles Keddy Farms. Our main crops are strawberry plants, and we are
one of the largest sweet potato growers this side of Ontario. We farm in the
Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. That’s another good day if we can keep
on irrigating, hope you don’t get too windy. Every day on the farm is different
for us but when I arrive in the morning it’s straight to work and it’s all
business talk, who’s gonna irrigate, who’s gonna go weed, who’s gonna cultivate and what jobs gotta get done. Harvest is kind of like organized chaos it’s a lot of
early mornings and late nights and we’re stuck to a certain time schedule and
we’ve got to keep to that. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that you
could put a small seed in the ground and you could watch that plant grow and
develop and spend my whole life from beginning to end and I guess I just
always knew that I wanted to be a farmer. We just started running this irrigation
here this morning getting the lines all tied off. This year we hope to hand
harvest about 1.7 million pounds of sweet potato. So this would be the first
one you would dig this fall? Yeah these are the new 90-day variety. Up until now
we were only able to grow a 120-day of varieties because that was the main
variety being grown in North America so now we have some new ninety-day which is
exciting because that might allow us to have potatoes for Thanksgiving and
that’s a market that we’ve never been able to get into. I’m still kind of
concerned if the weather turns cool again on us, that yeah we’re not gonna
have the ability to size that all of these potatoes out to meet the market
specs that we’re selling into. Because of the really wet conditions, the potatoes
have grown a lot more roots than they normally would. Oh yeah they make too
many roots if they’re gonna set too many potatoes, yeah look at that. We really got
to concentrate on watering those sweet potatoes every two to three days and
making sure the soil stays nice and moist for them to be able to grow and
expand in. I think we take a lot of pride in our sweet potatoes because we are one
of the few farms in Atlantic Canada being able to grow this crop. It was kind
of said that they couldn’t be grown here in this cooler climate so dad’s a
strong believer that, you know, when somebody makes a statement like that,
you gotta prove them wrong. Certainly visiting the customers is a
large part of what we do and who we are. How many years have you been selling to
Webster farms? Probably 40 years – oh wow. We could have three to five hundred
individual customers that we sell plants to in the spring and we want to be
known for having the best quality and cleanest strawberry plants that are
available. These are beautiful looking rows, it’s full of fruit, easy to pick. How
you doing guys? Hey Greg, what’s up today? I’ve always just enjoyed working with
the strawberry plants and and what it’s also allowed me to do over the course of
the last 40 years is get to know farmers all over North America. What are you
looking for, yield? You look for flavor? You looking for disease pressure on
them? We’re looking for a berry that is easy to pick, that’s this variety has
that feature but it’s fairly consistent in size, it’s reasonably firm, and can be
shipped. Yeah, well the consumers gonna buy the
first time with their eyes. So they’re gonna buy the color and the size
and so forth, but second time they’re gonna buy for flavor. That’s right.
So this berry has the flavor? It definitely has the flavor. We need that customer
feedback to tell us what we’re supposed to be planting, it’s all very valuable
information. Yeah, our whole job is to try to figure
out what the strawberry farmer is going to want to plant four years down the
road. As Doris has repeated time and time again; the only good customer is a repeat
customer. But we’re always coming together as a
family and me and mom are going over to wrap up the rest of the potatoes for the
season. I was just kind of looking the other day I think we shipped more this
season than any other year so we’re gonna have to look at the next big order and order in more boxes. I’m surprised we had still have so many left. Yeah. It’s a nice
feeling to be around your family and work together as owners but then still
be able to talk about family issues and you know, spend time together. We’re gonna open the gates. Oh, they’re looking Benny. All the cows. All of the sweet potatoes on the farm that
don’t make the grade, most of them are fed to our cattle, so I made up a special box
for the boys so they can go over and feed the cows and watch how much they
enjoy crunching ’em. Just move slow guys, don’t throw too far. Feedin’ the cows potatoes, they’ll be happy tonight. Look, they’re coming right up to you, buddy. I think on our farm, transition is
kind of a slow procedure. It’s not a firm that you can say here are the keys – go
with it. There’s so much to know. It’s been fun because I see light at the end
of the tunnel that, that the farm is gonna continue, and now with two little
boys hopefully a third generation that can say that we’re supplying the best
strawberry plants and the best sweet potatoes for another 40 years. They
thought that was a great treat, they’re just really hungry tonight they really like
the taste of those sweet potatoes. Okay boys, that’s all the potatoes for tonight, let’s go home.

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