It occurred to me that I have not handed out any farm awards lately, so I thought I should provide update, lest anyone think we are not self-congratulatory.
The award for “best potato variety that is not Sieglinde” goes to: White Rose and Yukon Gold. These traditional favourites have been completely overshadowed by the glamorous and tasty Sieglinde, but they deserve recognition in this newly created category. I won’t choose between the two because it has recently come to my attention that the farmers who produce the seed for us read this column. Surprise and shock aside, I won’t be picking favourites among the readers —potatoes are personal and don’t ever forget it. The Sieglinde seed potato producers read it too, but that variety has plenty of gongs already to line the root-house.
Yukon Gold and White Rose taste great. Customers ask for them by name and place special orders for boxes of them. In the field, they rarely come out with surprises such as odd growth bits or skin conditions. They yield what we need them to yield. They are top-performing potatoes.
I would also like to recognize one of our workers this year with the “you really rock” award. Cottoning on somehow to the fact that we like to celebrate seasonal farming milestones with a glass of bubbly, if anyone has the energy to go and get some (planting finished, random birthdays, truck washed), she rocked up on the last day of harvest with bottles of pink champers and glasses for the whole crew. The feeling of job-completion satisfaction that settled over the farm on that warm afternoon stayed with us for a long time.
Of course, the potato harvester itself must be awarded with something for doing such a passable job in the carrot patch. Not sure what to call this one, but when we used it in 2012 it was a dismal failure. In 2013 it achieved celebrity status as the unlikely Harvester of Carrots. Let’s call it the “surprise, surprise” award.
I think dad’s new 2013 hip gets equipment of the year and it might repeat in 2014. Hard to beat something that gets him bounding about putting in long tractor hours, pulling full market shifts, and practicing kite boarding. The in-row cultivator can’t compete with that, although it certainly does a nice job of dealing with weeds between the rows of potatoes.
On a more national (and official) level, my farming friend Lydia Ryall has won the BC/Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer award. Her Lower Mainland farm Cropthorne produces a huge variety and volume of mixed vegetables. At first, she farmed off the corner of her parents’ greenhouse property, itself a farm of note in the industry. When they sold, she found land somewhere else and is now quite huge.
What makes a “farmer of the year?” The criteria and competition are steep and past winners of this award are always married. Lydia is not and, obviously, a big key to her success is the fact that she farms with her older sister. I could leave it there without a word of further explanation required, but quite apart from that, she has a degree in agricultural sciences and a diploma in agricultural production. She is a pioneering professional who knows exactly what she’s doing and enjoys it. I am very proud to be three stalls down from her at the Vancouver Winter Market.