Just a half-hour’s drive northeast of Edmonton, Russell Van Boom farms 550 acres of seed potatoes at the farm he co-owns.
“I really like harvest. My dad always calls it the playoffs,” Van Boom said, as the growing season gets underway at North Bank Potato Farms in Sturgeon County, Alta.
His farm specializes in potatoes intended for seed, something for which he said the Alberta climate is well-suited.
“We complain about the cold winters sometimes here but it actually helps us produce good-quality, disease-free seed potatoes.”
Potato production has spiked in Alberta over the decades, according to ATB Financial. Last year, the province produced over two billion pounds of the crop, more than it ever had before.
Prince Edward Island continues to lead the country, according to the report, producing 2.3 billion pounds in 2017. Manitoba grew the second-most, followed by Alberta and New Brunswick. The four provinces made up over three-quarters of Canadian production.
While not leading Canada’s potato output, Alberta has had the strongest growth since 1997, with it more than doubling since then. Manitoba and New Brunswick saw 35 per cent and four per cent growth, respectively. Production in P.E.I. dropped 20 per cent.
“It’s nice to see people that have no real tie to potato growing all of a sudden be introduced into potato growing,” Van Boom said. “And there’s also a very large amount of growers that have been established and have been here for many years, and so I think that also represents a lot of excitement and opportunity for the next generation.”
Alberta’s potato crop is valued at $200 million a year, according to the report.