Day in the Life – Planting P.E.I. Potatoes

DayintheLifeMy name is Keisha Rose and I’m a 6th generation potato farmer working on my family’s farm in North Lake, Prince Edward Island.

I’ve worked on the farm on a part-time basis since I graduated high school nine years ago. The planting season lined up well with the end of the winter university semester, so it was the obvious job to go to at that time. It wasn’t until I moved away for a while that I realized I didn’t want to be away from North Lake and the farm.

Keisha Rose is a 6th generation potato farmer  in Prince Edward Island

Keisha Rose is a 6th generation potato farmer in Prince Edward Island

After graduating university with a Business degree, I was encouraged to go and get a job away from the family farm so I could make sure I had experience working outside of our family business. I worked for the past few years as a crop insurance representative. This job was a great learning experience and I got to see other farms and meet other farmers, and it gave me an even greater appreciation for the agricultural industry.

However, the pull to farm always seemed to be something that was present in my mind. Even as a young girl I loved visits to the field or the warehouse, so I felt it was something I couldn’t ignore. Although I have been working on and off the farm in the past, this year I decided to take more of a full-time, year-round role.

What I love is that every day is something new. You are usually outside, driving something, or trying to figure out the next problem. It comes with a lot hard work, a large time commitment, and a need to be constantly willing to learn, but in the end you get to see the “fruits of your labour” – quite literally!

Monday, May 18th, The first day we planted. My view from inside the box of the planter where I was working.

Monday, May 18th, The first day we planted. My view from inside the box of the planter where I was working.

On a typical day on a PEI potato farm like R.A Rose and Sons there could be many things going on. The week prior to the start of planting season, we were waiting for the ground to dry out but also making sure everything was prepared. Seed needed to be hauled in and equipment needed to be set up and checked over for the season. I got my class 3A (straight truck with air brakes) license last summer. I had not had much experience since then, so this spring I did some supervised trips picking up loads of seed in Charlottetown, and by the end of the week I had my “maiden” voyage to get a load of seed solo.

Making a round in the box of the planter to make sure everything was going alright.

Making a round in the box of the planter to make sure everything was going alright.

Monday, May 18th was our first day of planting. We were going to put in a few “early” acres of potatoes and then switch to the wheat/barley sowing, which would take about a week.

Arriving at the farm Monday morning was a prime example of when things are “hopping” in the farm yard. My father, Boyd, and I were trying to fix a sensor on the planter that let us know that all the seed potatoes (sets) were going in the ground. As we did this, my cousin Andrew was loading the first truck with sets. My uncle Myles was busy directing the driver of the lime spreader where to go. An employee on the farm, Darrin, was busy getting the fertilizer truck filled. Another employee, Mark, was hauling out last years’ crop to East Point Potato to be packed and shipped from there.

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Boyd (Dad) making sure everything was going smoothly as I drove the planter.

By the time we got things with the planter sorted out and we decided we could get started, it was around 8 a.m. The planter would work for the time being, but we decided we needed assistance from three different mechanics: one each for the tractor, planter, and the GPS. It’s not just as simple as making sure all of the equipment works anymore, as the GPS/auto-steering system on the tractor and planter may need to be adjusted or the software updated. It usually takes some time and patience.

My dad started planting and I got in the other tractor, as I usually drive the harrow. We have a Sunflower brand of harrow, which works up the soil as well as levelling it out. For the next few hours, I was in the tractor doing that while Dad was in the planter. Things were slow the first day, and I switched over and started working the land that was for the wheat around lunch time. It took until suppertime for Dad to get most of the kinks worked out of the planter and to finish getting in the first acres. At that point, we unhooked the planter from the tractor and hooked on to the grain seeder and roller set up we use for sowing wheat and barley. It was about 6 p.m. when we started sowing the first few acres of wheat and we got about 14 acres completed before we decided it was quitting time.

Sowing wheat. If you look closely you can see the fishing boats.

Sowing wheat. If you look closely you can see the fishing boats.

Some of my pictures show some happenings in the first week of being on the land.

Our chisel plow driver, Jimmy, needed to be towed out a few times when he got a little too close to a wet spot – and after the winter we had, there are plenty of those.

Towing the Chisel plow out of a low/wet spot.

Towing the Chisel plow out of a low/wet spot.

I had a run in with an old barb wire fence that had been buried at the side of a field undetected for many years. I also had a few minor break downs on the harrow. We usually try to get the problems identified and get it fixed as quickly as possible.

The barbed wire fence that got caught in my harrow. It took almost one hour to get out, and that was the second piece.

The barbed wire fence that got caught in my harrow. It took almost one hour to get out, and that was the second piece.

I am just getting ready to head into the second week of potato planting. This time of year, I know that I have to be ready to work whenever and however long we need to, so the job gets done. I never schedule a trip or take a “sick” day, because that just isn’t possible. Planting season requires all hands on deck.

I enjoy this time of year as it brings with it the hope for a new growing season. It also brings with it some uncertainty, but that’s the thing about farming – you have to have a little faith that things will go your way. You do your best to manage the crop as best as you can, but then the rest is up to Mother Nature.

I am just starting out in this industry and I know it has its fair share of challenges ahead of it. I plan to continue learning and adapting and taking it one challenge out of time, as farmers always have done!

Want to see more about life on Keisha’s family farm? You can find her on Twitter @KeishaLRo.

We’re blogging about Canadian farmers. Each month, we’ll feature a different farmer on www.realdirtblog.ca to show how diverse our Canadian agriculture industry is! Know a farmer that we should feature? Send us a note at info@farmfoodcare.org.

5 thoughts on “Day in the Life – Planting P.E.I. Potatoes

  1. Great blog post! I am from a pig farm in Ontario and can’t say I know a lot about potato farming. It was nice to learn a little about it. Good luck with everything!

  2. What an awesome post!!
    Good on you Keisha.. The Apple does not fall far from the tree!
    An awesome Family Farm story.. and you are all such wonderful Ambassadors for Family Farm Values……….. Good on YOU ALL !!! ( and your Parents/ Grandparents!!.. all very fine folks!!)

  3. Wow! Planting Spuds sure has changed since the early 50’s. I remember Springtime at “High Meadows” re: Red Island Clay. Backs than it was planting potatoes by hand. We would carry a sack of potatoes, take one spud out at a time and cut it into sections, making sure there was at least one eye in each section or set.
    The sack was a modified used feed bag that resembles a baby carrier that parents now use to transport small children, only it was carried lower for easy access to the next spud.
    Before the day’s work began the farmer would create a slight depression or drill in the soil with a “marker” (made with 2×4’s placed on edge) the sets were then dropped into the drill one after another as a “unit” than the process would be repeated over and over hour after weary hour.
    Back then we planted “tuber-unit” meaning the sets from each potato was cut into 3, 4 or 5 sets depending on the number of eyes in a particular potato. The juice from the wounded spuds would adhere to our hands causing the fingers to web together. YUCK!! I hated that.

    So much for the good old days!

  4. Hi Keisha. I grew up on the Island helping on different farms. Some of which are golf courses now…lol. I bring my family back for vacation every summer from Ontario. I’d love to show them around a working potatoe farm. We love growing our small potatoe garden here, so it would be cool to have them experience the large grower side. Maybe we could set up a visit in August when we are down? Thanks! Josh

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