By Jennifer McFee
Southern Potato Co. is no small fry when it comes to growing spuds.
Now in its fourth generation, the family farm sprouted up from strong agricultural roots.
In 1923, Henry Kuhl bought land in the Winkler area where Southern Potato took root. He learned his skills from his father, a farmer who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in 1870. The farm was passed down the family line from Henry to his son John and then to grandson Keith, who continues to run the operation today along with his own sons Marlon and Jeremy.
"It's pretty much in my blood," says Keith Kuhl, board chair of Peak of the Market and president of the Canadian Horticultural Council. "Both of my sons, who now manage the day-to-day operations, grew up on the farm and experienced all of the different work and responsibilities."
Today, the long-standing farm produces more than 20 different varieties of potatoes for Peak of the Market and Old Dutch Foods, as well as rotational crops such as wheat, corn, canola and soybeans. The farm spans 6,500 acres, with 2,000 acres of potatoes in all shapes, sizes and colours.
For Keith, the Viking variety has always been one of his favourites. "It's a red-skin, white-flesh potato that's very smooth with very shallow eyes. It's a really great all-around potato. But some of the fingerling potatoes that we've been growing are actually working out extremely well and I really enjoy those. Some of those specialty potatoes are more difficult to grow, but we don't mind challenges," he says.
"The beauty of working with some of these niche market varieties is that a lot of the chefs are looking for products that are going to give them unique potatoes to use on the plates. It's a good opportunity to connect with people in the food service industry."
In addition to the joy that stems from his homegrown veggies, Keith also appreciates the ability to work with others in the industry.
"I like the ongoing interaction with the family - not only my family but the family of people within the company. We employ about 50 people year-round and enjoy a very close working relationship with them. We've got great loyalty with the people who work for us," he says. "There's also collaboration throughout the whole supply chain. The interaction with suppliers and customers provides ongoing encouragement to keep moving forward."
And with an eye on the horizon, Keith remains optimistic about the future of farming - especially for the younger generation and women in the family.
"With the growth of the farms, there's such a variety of roles and responsibilities in the operation. In the past, the perception has always been that if you were on a farm, you had to be out on the land and running the equipment. But now, most farms have a business manager and possibly sales and human resource personnel," Keith says.
"So the opportunities for involvement in a farm, especially a farm like ours, have changed dramatically. I'm hoping that this will allow future generations to change their perception and attract more young people to stay on the farm."
by Jennifer McFee
The commitment to farming is four generations strong at Connery's Riverdale Farms — and the fifth generation has already begun toddling through the fields.
Ed Connery learned the business from his parents at their market garden in St. Vital. During the 1960s, Ed moved out to Portage la Prairie where he and his family continued to grow rutabagas, carrots and much more.
"They moved to Portage because of the availability of good land and water for irrigating and for the nice microclimate," explains Ed's daughter-in-law Beth.
"It's near the Assiniboine and Elm Rivers and it's just underneath the lake, so it's got a little bit of a longer season. It's a good spot to be."
Over time, Ed's sons Doug and Jeff took over the family farming operation. After the brothers sadly passed away in 2011 and 2012, Jeff's wife Beth continued to keep up the farming tradition.
Today, Beth runs the farm along with her daughter Sam and son Chris. Together, they grow asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cooking onions and squash, along with u-pick strawberries.
"We eat a lot of veggies. Getting half your plate full of vegetables is not a problem for us," Beth says with a laugh.
"Chris and Sam grew up on the farm, going out to the field with their dad from very early on. We really like growing vegetables because it's something that we can see going straight from our fields onto people's plates. It's really immediate. We like producing good food for families just like ours."
Perhaps an interest in farming is even beginning to take root in the fifth generation, since Chris's wee ones — three-year-old Lucas and one-year-old Emerson — are already immersed in the environment.
For Beth, farming is in her blood since she grew up on a nearby mixed farm that her brother now runs. Her favourite vegetable changes along with the seasons with fresh and nutritious options always on hand.
"My favourite is usually whatever's in season and really fresh for us. Asparagus is always a favourite because we wait until it's fresh and brand new. Then we cycle through all of the crops that we grow," says Beth.
"We have carrots all winter as well because we pack them at our farm. We store them and we have them right through until usually March."
The family is pleased to be involved with Peak of the Market for selling their homegrown vegetables. At the same time, they're also members of the Prairie Fruit Growers' Association for their tasty strawberries.
"We have a very good relationship with Peak of the Market," Beth says. "Thanks to them, we can concentrate on growing and packing our vegetables. It's a good life."
by Jennifer McFee
It’s all in the family at Garden Valley Vegetable Growers where a love for farming began to flourish four generations ago.
Along with two of his cousins, Bryce Loewen represents the fourth generation currently involved in the family farm.
The hard-working family tends to 3,000 cultivated acres of farmland located between Winkler and Morden where they grow a variety of fresh potatoes along with corn, soybeans, canola, rye and occasionally wheat.
But the bustling business began long ago when Bryce’s great-grandfather came to Canada by boat from Russia in 1926. He moved onto the property that is still in the family today. Over time, one of his sons bought a new homestead which also remains part of the family’s farming enterprise that has continued to grow over the years.
Today, Bryce’s father Leonard and uncle Peter are actively involved on the farm along with their first cousin Bitz. Bringing in a younger perspective, Bryce and his cousins Austin and David toil alongside the men who taught them how to work the land.
Bryce has not been involved with the farm for his whole life, but he began working full time for Garden Valley Vegetable Growers about four years ago.
“I got into farming because working with my hands has always been something that’s fun for me, but I’m also getting a little bit interested in the business side too,” he says. “A few years ago, I didn’t care much for the business part of it but now I’m really starting to like it. It’s a whole new set of challenges and it’s never the same. For sure, there are factors that you can’t control and you just roll with the punches at some point.”
With strength in numbers, the family works cohesively together and overcomes occasional challenges along the way.
“When you’re working with family, it’s way more understanding. It doesn’t feel nearly as formal every day because you feel comfortable with your coworkers. On the flipside, that also can lead to increased aggravation — and you’re not afraid to show it,” Bryce says with a laugh. “But, all in all, it’s wonderful to work with family. It’s much more personal.”
The family also appreciates the ability to work with Peak of the Market, a grower-owned vegetable supplier that operates in Manitoba.
“That’s been a very nice relationship. It’s great to see the upgrades they’ve done in the facilities. When it comes to the personnel, they are people that are very easy to work with and they’re very motivated to help,” Bryce says. “Because of the continued help from Peak of the Market in the potato industry, it has helped open up avenues for our farm to expand in other ways. It’s so much easier on our end because the marketing is taken care of by Peak of the Market.”
By Jennifer McFee
For Glen and Pat Fehr, farming fosters a sense of personal fulfillment that stems from providing fresh and healthy food for others.
And this year marks a milestone moment for the farming couple, who are celebrating 25 years since they launched GNP Farms in 1992.
Nestled along the U.S. border south of Plum Coulee, GNP Farms specializes in growing multiple varieties of mouthwatering table potatoes. In addition, they also keep busy growing wheat, edible beans, grain corn and occasionally canola.
"We've definitely increased our production in fresh potatoes over the years," Pat says of their farm, which now spans hundreds of acres and continues to expand. "But, at the same time, we're a very small cog in a very big wheel."
This year, the husband-and-wife duo are growing two kinds of red potatoes called Dark Red Norland and Sangres, as well as some yellow potatoes such as Musica and Colomba.
"I like all the different types of potatoes, but if I had to pick a favourite right now, I'd pick the Norland potatoes," Pat says. "I really like the flavour of them."
No stranger to the farming lifestyle, Pat grew up north of Winkler where her dad and uncle grew wheat and canola. Meanwhile, Glen was raised on his family's farm close to where he and his wife now live. He's been working with potatoes for nearly five decades since his dad grew his first potato crop in 1968.
"Glen farmed with his dad, and when we got married, we started our own family farm," Pat says. "It never even felt like we were making a decision. This is just a continuation of what he has always done."
Over the past 25 years, the Fehrs have continued to find enjoyment in all the hard work that goes into running GNP Farms, which takes its name by combining the initials of both Glen and Pat.
"There's always great satisfaction when it comes to harvest time. You get to harvest your crops and see what it yields, knowing that you're supplying good food to the world around you. It's very satisfying," Pat says. "We always try to do our best — and I don't think that sets us apart from anybody else because I think that's what everybody wants to do. We just want to supply the best products that we possibly can."
Peak of the Market helps to facilitate that process, and Pat is quick to acknowledge the pivotal role the non-profit organization has played in their successful operation. They have a long-standing relationship with the grower-owned vegetable supplier, since GNP Farms got its first quota allocation more than 20 years ago.
"When you've got someone else working out the markets for you, that's a big help," Pat says. "We appreciate everything that Peak of the Market does for us and for the other growers too."
And, of course, the Fehrs value the hard work of their dedicated staff members, who remain an essential element of their farming operation.
"We would like to acknowledge the teamwork within our employee group," Pat says. "We cannot do this on our own."
by J.H. Moncrieff
Haskett Growers, a fourth-generation family farm south of Winkler, grows potatoes for Peak of the Market, Old Dutch, McCains and Simplot.
So not only are your fresh potatoes from Manitoba, but those potato chips you just snacked on were probably grown here as well.
The 3000-acre potato farm was the legacy of C.E. Thiessen, who wanted to ensure that the family business would have room for everyone who wanted to farm.
"We all seemed to have a bit of farming passion in our blood, and there was no way he could give everybody the opportunity to farm without specialty crops," says Larry Thiessen, who now runs the farm with his brother Harold, his son Justin, and four nephews, Marlin, Gawain, Lyndon and Dave. "My dad was looking for something that would create year-round employment for his boys. I look back at what he did for us and it's absolutely amazing."
Thiessen hopes that his son and nephews will be able to do the same for their children.
"I grew up with five brothers, and my dad gave us all the opportunity to farm," he says. "It's been a good life for myself and my brother. Our wish is to get my son and nephews on solid enough ground so that their children will have the same opportunities."
The family purchased a potato-seed farm in 1997, and a 1000-acre French-fry farm in Treherne in 2011. Along with three other Peak growers, they also own and operate Heartland Fresh Pak, which washes, grades, and packages produce year-round. The Thiessens also grow soybeans, dry beans, corn, canola and wheat.
"Heartland Fresh Pak is our wintertime employment. We wash and grade five days a week, sometimes even six," says Thiessen. "We've really focused on expanding our operations. If you're standing still, you're going backwards."
Thiessen says the secret to working well with family is learning to pick your battles.
"Eventually you have to suck it up and move along, and with brothers, it's a little easier to work through your disagreements. You might not chat with each other for a week or two," he adds. "We communicate a lot more than we used to, and that's key. My father taught us pretty well."
Authored by: J.H. Moncrieff
J.H. Moncrieff is a Winnipeg journalist. Her articles have appeared in The Globe & Mail, Chatelaine, FLARE, WestJet magazine, Winnipeg Women, and the Winnipeg Free Press
by JENNIFER MCFEE
Jamor Farms, located north of Portage la Prairie, reaps a harvest that is both bright and bountiful.
The long-standing family farm grows 150 acres of carrots, parsnips and red beets - in addition to another 3,000 acres of grain and oil seeds.
Scott Moorhouse represents the third generation on the farm, which his grandfather began as a young man.
"He was doing grain and cattle, and he started vegetables in the late 1960s near the end of his time on the farm," he says. "What I'm told is we started growing vegetables with a neighbour, Lorne Jordan. Then 'Jordan and Moorhouse' somehow became 'Jamor Farms.'"
The farm was later passed down to Moorhouse's father, Jim, who is now nearing retirement. Along with the current father-son team, cousin Alan Brown is also involved in the family business.
For Moorhouse, the farming lifestyle has been deeply rooted in his daily routine since he was a young boy.
"I enjoy working outside and I enjoy working on the land. I've only worked off the farm for one summer," he says. "In Manitoba, I think we grow the best-tasting vegetables in North America."
And when you bite into a brilliantly red beet from Peak of the Market, you can be certain that it came from the fertile fields at Jamor Farms.
"We're the only red beet grower that sells their beets through Peak of the Market. There are only two parsnip growers in Manitoba and there are only three carrot growers in Manitoba," Moorhouse says. "Peak of the Market is a huge help for us on the marketing end of things. Without them, I don't know what we'd be doing. Peak of the Market is a great help."
by Jennifer McFee
WINKLER, MB. – Healthy food, healthy world.
That's the vision of Kroeker Farms, which has grown exponentially since 1928 when Abram and Elizabeth Kroeker began growing crops for their new company located near Winkler. As the potato farm took root, it spanned 280 acres of cultivated land plus another 80 acres of pasture and poplars.
Since the company incorporated in 1955, it has continued to expand. Today, the business retains its headquarters in Winkler with farmland that stretches all the way from the U.S. border to the west side of Carmen.
In 2002, Wayne Rempel became the first non-family member to be named CEO of the company that specializes in all kinds of potatoes. It's colourful yield includes reds, yellows, whites, russets, three shades of baby potatoes as well as seed potatoes.
The secret to their success stems from a concept best summed up by the German phrase "Immer Besser," roughly translated as "Always Better."
"For us, it's all about constant improvement. I love the challenge of always trying to do better," Rempel says. "We're constantly learning. We're always travelling and looking for new ideas and better ways of doing things. We don't think we have all the answers. That's why Immer Besser fits the way we think."
The positive results of that motivating mindset are clear to see, since Kroeker Farms earned an Excellence in Business Award from the Winkler Chamber of Commerce in 2015.
Over the years, the founding family has transitioned to roles on the board of directors and as shareholders.
"We implemented an employee shareholder program, so lots of our employees are shareholders too. In winter, we have about 140 employees, and in summer, we have close to 300," Rempel says. "We transitioned from a family who originally owned the company to employees who are shareholders."
Over the eras, Kroeker Farms — which is a major potato supplier for Peak of the Market and Old Dutch — has remained a renowned source of quality products that are both tasty and healthy.
With an eye on the future, the company will continue to focus on its founding principles that have allowed it to flourish over the decades.
"We aim to meet people's needs through innovative agriculture in a way that honours God," Rempel says. "That's our Mission Statement at Kroeker Farms — and it applies to me on a personal level too. We can honour God in business by treating people fairly, by having integrity and by working hard."
By Jennifer McFee
Variety is the spice of life at Mayfair Farms where the Giffin family grows an impressive array of fresh fare.
The family farm took root in Portage la Prairie in the mid-1940s when Foss and Edith Giffin began growing red potatoes with Edith's brother George Hill. With a desire to diversify, they also raised cattle and turkeys.
Over time, the couple's son Kelly and his wife Eleanor also worked the land together with their four boys - Todd, Mike, Scott and Mitch.
As the boys grew, so did the farm. They started a strawberry patch and expanded to grow green and yellow beans, peppers, cucumbers and celery for the Campbell Soup Company. Later, they put up a greenhouse that allowed them to dabble in even greater veggie varieties.
Today, the 1,300-acre farm produces cauliflower, cabbage, yellow and red onions, sweet corn and pumpkins, along with light red kidney beans and strawberries.
"As a farmer, I appreciate the fact that people are more in touch with where their food is coming from. It's really great that people want to know and take an interest. We're right here with local fresh produce, so it's a nice trend," says Todd, who runs the farm with his brother Mike.
"Cauliflower is closest to my heart. We get a lot of feedback that our cauliflower is a good quality. We love to hear the trend of healthy eating, with cauliflower being right up there as one of the top vegetables."
The Giffin family continues to cultivate a love of farming into the fourth generation with Todd's children Carter and Jessie, Scott's children Kaley and Lana as well as their cousins Melanie, Foss, Sara and Aedan.
"Personally, I was always looking up to my older brothers working on the farm, and I always had a desire to do what they were doing. It's just something we've always done. We grew into it. It was a metamorphosis, with the farm growing as we did," Todd says.
"We went through a lot of growing pains along the way. Times were not always good, but we persevered to be where we are today. It's great to be able to work with family. It's not always easy to have that longevity, but we seem to be able to do it."
Along with his family, Todd gives credit to the farm's staff, which includes more than 75 dedicated workers who pitch in during peak times. "They're a very important part of the farm," he says. "We really appreciate the work they do."
He also expresses gratitude for the involvement of Peak of the Market, which helps create a sense of kinship among local farmers.
"We like to be able to work with other growers. It's nice to be in a community where you can work with other people instead of looking at them as competition," Todd says.
"And it's nice to be able to create synergies with the other growers' crops so that we can supply customers with better service."
by JENNIFER MCFEE
After months of toiling out in the field, perhaps there's no sweeter reward than the first taste of your homegrown yield.
For the family behind W.J. Siemens Farming Co. Ltd., all their hard work is well worth the satisfaction of taking that initial bite of their farm-fresh potatoes that crop up each summer.
"One of life's joys is that early potato," says co-manager Paul McDonald. "In July, it's a great feeling to go in there and dig some of those small little potatoes. They're very tasty."
Now that the family farm is in its fourth generation, that distinct delight has been savoured throughout the decades. In 1959, McDonald's father-in-law, Bill Siemens bought 80 acres of farmland from his own father in the Winkler area.
Over the years, his daughters Kelly and Bev became involved in the farm, which has now quadrupled with hubs located near Winkler, Rosetown, Portage la Prairie and MacGregor. Today, the sisters co-own the farm, which is managed by Kelly's husband Paul McDonald and Bev's husband Ray Friesen.
The fourth generation has also dug into the endeavour with involvement from Friesens' son Jacy and son-in-law Matt Friesen, as well as McDonalds' daughter Ravae. Together, they supply Peak of the Market with a variety of red and yellow potatoes, while also growing some Russet, Gold Rush and Norkotah varieties.
For the family of farmers, they've cultivated a positive relationship with Peak of the Market, a grower-owned not-for-profit vegetable supplier.
"It works very well for us. We give them a good quality product to sell and they do the marketing of our crop," McDonald says. "They've got the market out west and east, and quite a bit goes south into the U.S."
In addition to their potato crops, the farming family is busy growing beans, corn, soybeans, wheat and other cereal crops.
"It's a good life. There are lots of opportunities," McDonald says. "We have good people working for us, which really helps. It's a lot easier to manage the farm when you've got good employees. A lot of them have been around for a long time, and we really need them and appreciate them."
There's no shortage of work to be done, since they've diversified in recent years by getting involved in the trucking industry.
But for the folks behind W.J. Siemens Farming, the main hurdle isn't the hard work — it's the often-extreme weather conditions that can whip across the Manitoba prairies.
"The weather has been a big challenge for us for the last few years. Last year, was one of our wettest years on record in the Rosetown area south of Winkler," McDonald says. "We're fortunate because our operation is spread out so that we don't have all our crop in one area. That helps us a lot. It's hard work but we enjoy what we do."
By Jennifer McFee
Nearly 27 years ago, Dufferin Market Gardens sowed the seeds for a small business venture that has since blossomed into a homegrown success.
In 1989, Edith Rook was a stay-at-home mom raising seven children when she embarked on her veggie-growing adventure. At that time, a farmer's market was launching in Carman and Edith began to sell an assortment of vegetables grown on a half-acre of land. While Edith was at the market, her husband, Len, and their older children were busy growing and harvesting after work and school.
Over the years, the farm evolved little by little with additional acres and more greenhouses. In 1995, Rook noticed that Peak of the Market was seeking growers for summer crops, and with Len's persuasions, they began to supply kale to the not-for-profit organization.
"About 90 per cent of the kale that we produced at that time was used as a garnish in delicatessens around the meat platters and in stores and restaurants," she says.
"We're still doing kale, and the amount has increased over the years. Now 90 per cent of it is being consumed."
In 2000, Edith's husband Len quit his construction job to work full-time on the farm, which grew to span 30 acres. Today, the couple continues to grow kale for Peak of the Market, as well as zucchini, cucumbers, leeks, green bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. They also grow tomatoes and a variety of other veggies for their own consumption and for sale at the Carman Farmers' Market, where Edith still vends every Friday throughout the summer.
"I enjoy the selling part and Len enjoys the growing part," says Edith, who makes plenty of salsa with her homegrown ingredients.
In addition to supplying an abundance of fresh vegetables, the farming lifestyle also provided the family with a wealth of cherished memories.
"We taught our children a lot on the farm about working and playing and being together. We had a lot of great conversations because they were working right alongside us. For us, it was a really good way of life," she says.
They also employ nine seasonal Mexican workers who have become like an extended family.
"We simply could not do this anymore without them. They're totally essential. They tend to come back because we're happy with them and they're happy with our farm," Edith says. "We built quite a relationship with them and they count on coming back year after year."
In addition, Peak of the Market is another integral element of their operation.
"For produce like kale and leek, there's a limited amount of sales in those products. We cannot grow these products without the good use of Peak of the Market," Edith says. "They are an essential part of our business. It works really well for us. We would not be able to do this without them."
At the same time, Edith emphasizes the importance of faith on the family farm.
"Over the years, we have been able to make a good living and farming has been a good way of life," she says. "We work hard and we enjoy life, but that can only happen because God is blessing us in that way. We are grateful."
By Jennifer McFee
The hard-working family at Hespler Farms cultivates a healthy appreciation of farming as well as a strong faith in the process.
Located just south of Winkler, the 6,800-acre farm grows a variety of crops including potatoes, corn, soybeans, wheat and canola.
In 1956, Frank Suderman and his wife Helen purchased the land and started growing potatoes. Over time, they passed the farm down the family line to their daughter Dorothy and her husband Nick Heide.
The third generation soon got involved with the Heides' daughter Joanne and her husband Wayne Derksen along with their son Richard and his wife Amanda.
Wayne, a former high school teacher who married into the farming family, says 91-year-old Frank still comes to the farm several times per week.
"He keeps on challenging us and says, 'Boys, keep on remembering you are just stewards of the land. This is not yours. It is going to be passed on to someone else someday. Make sure you do the absolute best you can with what you've got,' " he says.
"He keeps challenging us to make sure we have our priorities in place. That is something about our farm that we value a lot. We are a farm of faith, and that has helped."
For Wayne, he's pleased to have made the career shift from the world of education to the realm of cultivation.
"They are both great jobs, but I really enjoy what I'm doing now, especially the flexibility that comes with it," he says.
"I enjoy getting my hands dirty and watching things grow. I really love being out there in the open and being able to see how things are progressing. It's amazing and wonderful how you can just plant a seed in the ground and later on you're able to harvest something out of that."
This love of the land is evident in the fourth generation of family farmers, with involvement from Wayne and Joanne's children Mark, Linnea and Brent, along with their cousins Kate, Brooke and Peyton.
In addition, Hespler Farms welcomes a seasonal crew of workers, ranging from 18 full-time employees in the summer to more than 40 during harvest time.
"We don't have any middle management," Wayne notes, "so we work directly with our employees."
Hespler Farms also appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with other farmers through Peak of the Market.
"Peak of the Market has been a good avenue for us to work with other growers to market our crops. If we had to do that ourselves, that would take a lot of time to meet with the purchasers of all the different companies," Wayne says.
"I think by working together, you get more done and you're more efficient. You can do more than you could do by yourself. I'm very thankful. It's a good group of people to work and be with. The more we work together, the stronger we are as a whole."
By Jennifer McFee
Where there is great risk, there can also be great reward.
Few people know that better than farmers - and Jeffries Brothers Vegetable Growers are no exception. Located east of Portage la Prairie, brothers Dave and Albert Jeffries incorporated the farm in 1968. Forty years later, Dave and his son Roland bought Albert's share of the farm. Today, along with Roland's brother Ernie, they continue to operate as a father-son team.
They grow carrots, parsnips and rutabagas for Peak of the Market on their 500-acre farm. The Jeffries also grow strawberries, which are Roland's top pick for a sweet treat. "I like vegetables, but the strawberries would be my favourite to eat," he says. "But, I have to say, the carrots are really good too."
The farm also provides fertile ground for new ideas and fresh approaches to the industry. "We're always trying to grow a better product, whether it's with new technology or changing up some of the practices we're doing. They're always coming out with a new piece of equipment that maybe does this job a little better," Roland says. "As well, we're trying to find ways to reduce the amount of waste on our farm. We're looking at starting up some processing to try to use up some of that by-product."
As another source of satisfaction, Roland also enjoys seeing the progress of his crops throughout the growing season.
"I like driving around and seeing how things are doing, watching the crop grow and knowing that we're feeding people. It's a good feeling," he says. "There are three carrot growers in the area and we try to work together. We're all doing the same thing and we want to be successful at it."
The life-long farmer is also grateful for the opportunity to grow the business with his family. "I come to work every day and work with my dad and my brother too. How many people get to do that?" he asks. "A lot of people don't have that opportunity and we definitely don't take it for granted."
As for the industry, Roland remains optimistic for the future of farming.
"Farming, as an industry, is going to be important in the coming years. People always need to eat and our population is growing. But if all of a sudden we end up in a drought for three or four years, it's going to be a struggle. Or everything could be great until one day you look out the window and we're getting five inches of rain. You can't do anything except sit there and watch it," he says.
"I partly enjoy that too - the risk of it all. When things are good, they're really good. Things can also be really bad, but there's always next year. Overall, there seems to be a good balance."
By Jennifer McFee
At S.B. Vegetable Growers, life on the farm is more than just a job - it's a way of life.
For Idzerd Boersma, his love of farming took root in the Netherlands where he grew up on his father's potato and onion farm.
In 1982, 14-year-old Idzerd moved to Canada with his parents and sister. The family bought a farm near Portage la Prairie where they grew vegetables for Campbell's Soup and cooking onions for Peak of the Market.
They reorganized the farm over the next few years, growing only potatoes for McCain Foods along with cooking onions, grains and oil seeds. When Idzerd turned 18, he began farming full time and slowly started the process to take over the farm.
In 2002, an opportunity sprouted up for Idzerd and his wife Dori to buy S.B. Vegetable Growers themselves. Today, the couple continues to grow potatoes for McCain Foods as well as yellow and red cooking onions for Peak of the Market.
For Idzerd, the joy of farming stems from the sense of independence that comes from working his own land.
"You make your own decisions. You get up daily and you're at your livelihood and your place. You don't have to punch a clock or go somewhere else to work. It's a good business," he says. "It's freedom. That's what it is."
There aren't many differences between farming in Manitoba and the Netherlands, he adds, except when it comes to the weather.
"It's tougher in Holland because there's always so much rain. You can get rain for three weeks in August, so it's always a fight to get your crop out," he says. "Here, the weather conditions are severe, but you know when winter is coming so you gear towards it."
But the success of the operation also depends on dedicated and dependable workers.
"We could not accomplish the work we do without our amazing team of employees who I work alongside every day, all year round," he says. "Paul Van Aert, my friend and manager, has been with us for 25 years."
And for a life-long farmer like Idzerd, there is no better way to spend his days.
"I don't look at farming as a job but rather as a way of life," he says.
"It certainly helps that I love farming, and we commit to growing the best quality produce we are able to."
By Jennifer McFee
At Schmidt Farms, generations of the family have grown taters since they were tots.
Juston Schmidt is a third-generation potato-grower who grew up on the farm where his grandfather once worked the land. Located near Winkler, they grow fresh varieties of potatoes for Peak of the Market plus others for processing by McCain Foods.
"Potato farming is basically all I've ever known. I grew up on the farm and still live here. It's very interesting to go through the challenges. Every year, is a new challenge and every year is a new reward," Juston says.
"The main thing that sets us apart from most farms in this area is that we only grow potatoes. We specialize in potatoes. That's our only source of income and it's the only thing we do."
Last year, the Schmidts grew nine different varieties and the selection changes year after year.
"We're always trying to find better varieties so that's where we spread out a bit. But as much as we're always trying to find better ones, we still concentrate on the proven ones. The reason why they're the proven varieties is because they're good," Schmidt says.
"The yellow-fleshed potatoes are our favourites for eating and growing. We fertilize them and water them but they seem to grow very well on their own. They yield better and look nice."
As Juston sees his own young children begin to take interest in the farm, he reflects on the progression of the industry.
"Things have changed," he says. "Every part of the industry is geared towards safety now - food safety and worker safety."
Grounded in gratitude, this farming family also appreciates the opportunity to provide potatoes to Peak of the Market.
"I think that is a very nice setup we have here in Manitoba with Peak of the Market," Juston says. "We work together very well . It's a really good operation that they run and we're happy to be one of the suppliers for their potatoes."
By Jennifer McFee
The secret to success at Snowland Vegetable Farm stems from their ability to adapt.
Scott Friesen runs the family farm in Halbstadt along with his wife Kimberly and son Jordan. His parents, Wes and Rose, planted a dedication to the trade that runs deep in his blood.
But it all began several generations ago with his grandparents Jacob P. and Tina Friesen, who started off by growing grains and then added sugar beets in the 1950s.
For as long as Scott can remember, the farm grew beets for the Manitoba Sugar factory in Winnipeg. But after the factory closed down in the 1990s, Scott knew they had to adapt to survive - and thrive.
"We started growing vegetables in 1997," he said. "I was just looking for higher returns on some smaller acres and was interested in hands-on work with vegetables."
Today, the Friesen family grows green beans, yellow beans and sweet corn, as well as grains, soybeans and dry beans.
In addition to the satisfaction of growing vegetables, Scott also enjoys seeing his produce displayed for sale to the public.
"In our area, we're the only ones doing commercial vegetable production. What I really liked was that if I was in the store, I could see my product on the store shelf as opposed to wheat that just got hauled into the elevator and was milled into flour," Scott said.
"Without Peak of the Market, I don't know if I would be able to successfully market as much product as I do."
As for the consumers who bite into one of his delicious veggies, Scott has a simple message to share.
"I wanted to let people know how much work the vegetables are to get them to the store," he said. "There is an extreme amount of care, labour and time that goes into getting them there."
Grower Information to come soon.