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Alberta farm offers free potatoes

September 28, 2009  By The Canadian Press

28, 2009, Edmonton, Alta – An Alberta potato farm became the site of a traffic jam recently when an alliance of community groups and a local potato farmer decided to give away free potatoes.

28, 2009, Edmonton, Alta – Call it Spudapalooza.

was no rock concert spawning the massive lineup of cars that gridlocked traffic
on the Manning Freeway northeast of Edmonton for several hours on Saturday – it
was a potato giveaway.


alliance of community groups and a local potato farmer decided to give away
45,000 kilograms of free spuds as a way of promoting locally grown food and to
draw attention to the valuable farm land being used for urban development.

expected a couple of thousand people might come out, but were taken completely
by surprise when several thousand more started lining up on the road leading to
the farm by 7:30 a.m.

certainly exceeded what we expected,” said Michael Walters of the Greater
Edmonton Alliance
, a collection of community groups, small businesses,
religious organizations and labour activists.

know there’s a very serious demand for food in general, but when it’s free …”

said at one point, the lineup of cars stretched an estimated eight kilometres.

he said it wasn’t as much of a “pick-and-grab” as some might have expected.

were hundreds of people in line at one time, just waiting for a tractor to come
and till the fields and turn the potatoes over,” he explained. “Then people
just started digging.”

were pretty supportive and pretty engaged … just looking for a way to have
more of a voice in it. We were thrilled not only with the turnout but with how
educated and passionate the crowd was about the importance of local

four hours after the event started, potato farmer Gordon Visser had to announce
to hundreds of waiting potato pickers that the supply of spuds had been

Walters said it was a good way to impress upon city dwellers that instead of
relying on food that’s shipped to Canada from places such as China, they should
support local growers and the effort to preserve urban agricultural land.

demonstrated the significant demand for local food, which was our intent,” he

land has more value than just being a holding pattern for urban growth. While
the cities will continue to grow, we need to integrate agricultural land within
that development.”

Armstrong brought his kids to the event, thinking it would be fun for them and
an opportunity to expose them to the local farming community.

expected it to be busy but this is insane,” he said with a good-natured laugh.
“We’ve been waiting 10 minutes just to get to the turnoff. We’ll walk up the
road and see if we can get in.”

Rosa Fernandez, who also brought her kids, finally gave up.

saw a big lineup on the freeway,” she recounted. “We thought, well, it’s not
that far away. We started to walk … and somebody told us there were at least
a thousand cars and it was about five kilometres away. So, we’re, like, no, I
don’t think so. The kids are already complaining.”

that she will give up on the event. She said she would come if it’s held again
next year, only she’ll plan to get there ahead of time.

early bird gets the potato,” she explained.

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