20 years of harvesting

20 years of harvesting

Like many of you, I have noticed the subtle shift from summer into fall. The days are shorter, the nights are cooler and my kids seem a little more restless, sensing the impending new school year. This time of year presents a sense of discord in me. On one hand, I mourn the waning days of summer but on the other, I look forward to what the fall will offer. The changing leaves and cool crisp air are just small parts of why autumn is my favourite season.

At the Little Potato Company, Autumn means harvest, a very exciting and important time for us. We commemorate this time by organizing and hosting potato field days in our growing regions. During this time, we welcome all our partners to come and join us as we take a peek at what our growers have been working hard at since Spring: Growing our beautiful creamer potatoes.

This year’s field days have been especially notable for me as the Little Potato Company is celebrating its 20th year in business. This anniversary has been cause for reflection on how far we’ve come. It became especially clear as I looked over the acres of potato plants at this year’s field days. I recognized how different they look to me from 20 years ago. This might sound weird, but it reminded me a little bit of snow. It’s not really snow but how people see snow.

I remember hearing, and I’m sure most people have heard this too, that the Inuit have seven different names for snow. But it’s not like terms of endearment like my husband’s dozen nicknames for each of our children. The seven names are associated with different types of snow depending on weather and climate that the Inuit, who are intimately familiar with snow, have noticed. It’s this intimacy and greater awareness that has made them see snow at much more complex and layered way.

That’s how I feel about potatoes. 20 long years ago when we planted our first acre of potatoes, I looked at that field in a much different light than I do now. Back then I suppose I saw the field at its most obvious and basic physical form: rows of leafy green plants adorned with pretty flowers.

20 years in this business of selling potatoes has revealed to me a much deeper complexity and intricacy to these fields. What I see is history. Not only our personal history of growing this company or my dad’s history of growing up in Holland on a potato farm and being inspired by the little potatoes he used to gather in the fields left over from the harvester. Nor does it solely invoke the memories of the afternoon when my dad went for lunch in a simple diner just outside of Edmonton. It was then when my dad overheard two Dutch farmers talk about the virtues of small potatoes.

Beyond the company history, I also see the history of the potato itself. As I became more knowledgeable about the potato, I learned about the long history of potato breeding and its impact on the industry. I came to be aware of each individual potato variety’s history. The parental lines of the potatoes that gave birth to the plant we see now and how much relentless work is needed to get there. I see the earth in which the seed is planted in and the science behind making soil amendable to our potatoes.

The agronomy. I didn’t even know what that word meant 20 years ago, and now I look at dirt with a sense of awe. I can’t help but see all the work done before we’re even ready to harvest a single potato. This is the history I see in each field I look at now.

And then there is what I see in these fields that lie in the present. The attention and care of our partners and employees. Our growers, our brokers, our retailers, etc. who work so hard and passionately to bring our creamers to market. Every little part and piece of the supply chain that might seem mundane and insignificant is such an integral part of, what I see, is a gift to the world. Every little gesture and comment that helps improve our company from one day to the next are the key ingredients to our success. Nothing is insignificant.

Then there is the future. Those visionaries and dreamers who I have the pleasure of working with who make me look at these fields not just in their multilayered complexity and greatness, but make me look at what these fields have the potential of being. The breeders and growers who seek out more sustainable and efficient ways of growing potatoes. The sales and marketers who expand markets and brainstorm more innovative products and packaging. Our operations and finance people who make sure our dreams and ideas are still somehow grounded to reality.

I see and feel that energy every day but I am especially filled with a sense of reverence of this collection of people joined in a single cause. When I look at those rows of leafy green plants adorned with pretty little flowers 20 years ago I looked at a humble plant producing an unremarkable vegetable, but now, 20 years later I see it for what it truly is – a beautiful gift to the world.

Thanks for reading
Angela Santiago

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