New potato producers Marijke Oudshoon and Willem van de Wetering of Spud Isle Farms located at Morell Prince Edward Island are Atlantic’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2023. They will be competing at the national event in Laval, Québec from November 22-26.
Will and Marijke both grew up in Holland on dairy farms. Marijke’s family moved to Ontario in 1999 and Will’s family moved in 2007. In Ontario, both families were farming poultry and cash crops while Marijke’s family also raised pigs and veal calves. The two met in Ontario and shared a passion for the agriculture industry. Marijke went to Ridgetown College and Olds College and received her Agriculture Business Degree. Will worked at a John Deere dealership in Ontario and received his mechanic red seal.
With zero potato production knowledge, they moved to PEI in 2017. Working with the previous landowner they were able to take over an existing potato farm. They will focus on using cover crops, grass waterways, and reduced tillage while not increasing herbicide usage. Marijke and Willem want to extend cover cropping to two years between potato production years and hope to try new potato varieties that will withstand adverse weather events better and grow with less fertilizer.
In the future, Marijke and Willem want to diversify and try different crops to become more self-sufficient. They will strive to improve equipment and expand storage capacity.
The British Columbia/Yukon region will be represented by brothers Brad and Travis Hopcott, Pitt Meadows. Together with their parents and sister Jenn, they operate Hopcott Farms located less than 40 minutes from downtown Vancouver. What began as a dairy farm became a feedlot in 1957, which Brad now manages. After one year of composting the manure produced on the farm, it is sold to the public. Because they sell 70 per cent of their meat production through their retail store, which sister Jenn manages, Hopcott Farms built a $5 million abattoir in 2022 to reduce their processing costs.
In 1996, the farm entered a partnership with Ocean Spray to produce 72 acres of cranberries. Travis, as manager of that operation, hosts harvest tours to the public in six different languages.
Hopcott Farms expanded its retail sales when the store was increased to 15000 sq ft in 2015. Brad & Travis believe quality and transparency are key to their business and especially when dealing with their 80 employees from around the world.
Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer competition is currently accepting nominations for 2024. You must be between the ages of 18 and 39.
Source: Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers July 27, 2023 news release