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Alma, P.E.I., potato grower earns McCain’s Atlantic title

potato grower earns McCain’s Atlantic title


March 31, 2008
By Kathy Birt

Topics

It was a combination of things
that earned Kent and Lloydia Smallman, of Smalken Farms, Ltd., in Alma,
Prince Edward Island, the title of McCain Champion Potato Grower for
2005.

alma
Kent (centre) and Lloydia  Smallman of Smalken Farms in P.E.I. show the trophy they were awarded as McCain’s top Atlantic Grower. 
Photo by Kathy Birt

It was a combination of things that earned Kent and Lloydia Smallman, of Smalken Farms, Ltd., in Alma, Prince Edward Island, the title of McCain Champion Potato Grower for 2005.

Kent and Lloydia operate the family farm that goes back 125 years in West Prince, where they grow 400 acres of potatoes and raise 200 head of beef cattle.

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Kent’s father, Ellis, whose uncle, Jamie Dunbar, first owned the property, has successfully operated the farm over the years, but now Kent says, “My father is 76 and semi-retired,” explains Kent, adding that he still “helps out some.”

Growing up on a farm meant a lifelong involvement in farm-related activities, such as 4-H. Kent won awards throughout his involvement with that organization and also won the Outstanding Young Farmers Award in 1990.

This most recent win, which was presented to Kent and Lloydia at the September annual McCain Growers’ Barbeque, meant adhering to a series of stringent growing, harvesting and grading practices.

“It really is a combination of many things,” explains Kent. He says it’s not just a matter of leaving the crop and just letting it grow.

Buying all his seed from Barry Gallant of Fortune Cove Farms in Cascumpec, Kent points out that, “Having good seed and cutting the seed all the same size means you will have a uniform run of potatoes. If you have good strong seed, you’ll have good strong tops.”

And it’s those strong tops that help produce a good Island spud on Smalken Farms, where Shepody and Russet Burbank are the two main varieties grown.

The McCain trophy winners say looking after the crop during the growing season is paramount to a good harvest. “The right temperature at planting time is important and we need to make sure the crop gets just the right amount of moisture during the growing season,” says Kent, adding that the western end of the Island fortunately offers him the right temperatures and moisture, providing ideal growing conditions for his 2005 crop.

Added to all this care, Kent says he closely follows a fertilizer plan set out by McCain’s fertilizer and lime rep, Emmerson MacMillan. “We follow all their recommendations to assure we’ll have a good crop,” he says, adding that the farm also follows farm food safety rules.

And then there is the grading process that the couple says must be done with care and precision. “Grading slow means having the best product going into the bag,” says Kent.

This farming couple follows the McCain grading system, which has points added or taken away according to the quality of the potatoes. “We lose points for poor colour or overall quality,” explains Kent.

There are 18 different categories available, covering bags from two to 25 pounds. For every load of potatoes that is taken to McCain’s grading plant, a sample basket is chosen and put through a battery of tests required by the potato processing plant.

Hence, getting the most points not only garnered the couple a huge trophy and a good reputation for growing quality potatoes, but they also were the recipients of an all-expense–paid trip for two to Bermuda.

The couple points out that the potatoes are a full-time job from spring until Christmas. The hay and grain crops also take time and care in the summer and Kent is kept busy with the animals during the winter months. As for Lloydia, she is kept busy taking care of the books, helping with potato grading and they both manage to keep four busy, active sons interested in farm life, as well as sports and other activities.

With the four boys to keep up with and the dual farm to contend with, the couple will take their well-earned break and have that one-week trip to Bermuda, together, in mid-April this year.

Kent sums up the win by saying it was a shock. “Some years, you go in thinking you’re going to do well, and you’re down. So we went in with an open mind this time and we won.”