Editor's note -- this article first appeared in the PEI Potato News. it is reprinted with permission.)
Frank and Scott Power have farming in their blood. This has led to the growth of a successful fresh enterprise that has grown over the years and is now marking its twenty-fifth year of operation.
Like many Islanders of a certain age, Frank and Scott grew up on a family farm with a few acres of potatoes and livestock including beef, dairy cattle and some pigs. Their father farmed full-time and their mother, even with the handicap of being blind, looked after the kids and the household and provided meals for the farm crew during the busy seasons.
They have very early childhood memories of digging potatoes with a beater digger and using a horse and cart to take them to the house cellar where they would be graded by hand over the winter. Scott remembers feeling envious as neighbours with larger operations would drive by with a tractor and cart as they were picking up potatoes by hand!
After finishing school, they both went to work for a neighbouring farmer where they built on the lessons they had learned at home and got a good appreciation for what worked and what didn’t on the farm. Their parents both passed away in 1993 within five weeks of each other. Frank,
was living in a newer house he had built on the home property, and Scott rented out the old farmhouse which was tragically destroyed in a fire in 1994.
What was left of the home farm in Elliotvale consisted of 60 acres spread over several fields and an old International tractor. Frank started growing 30 acres of potatoes in 1995 and Scott joined him the next year. The 30 acres quickly grew to 60 acres and has increased over the years to 450
acres of fresh and seed potatoes. They built their first warehouse in 1995 doing all the construction and carpentry work themselves. The timing of their expansion worked well in the area they live in eastern PEI. Several smaller acreage elite seed growers retired over this time period and the Powers gradually took over at least three of these local farms. This provides them with a nice base of land close to their home farm and several warehouses. They are also fortunate to be able to trade land with neighbours for rotation cropping and focus their main efforts on their potato crop.
The Powers have always been active in the fresh market and have supplied Cara Foods for over 20 years. They wash and pack their own potatoes and, while they are not dealers themselves, they have good working relationships with several local dealers particularly Red Isle, McKenna Brothers (who are just down the road), Garden Isle, McCain Produce and Brent Craig.
They supply round whites and yellows with a high percentage of their crop going to the Chef market. They usually start digging in September and move some of the crop out of the field. The rest goes into storage. They keep things simple packing mainly into 50 lb bags or totes
and are busy grading and packing until the end of February.
Seed potatoes are also part of the mix and while they grow seed mainly for their own use, they also sell seed when there is demand for any extra they may have.
A Good Team
As with most family farms, Frank and Scott are involved in all aspects of growing and packing their crop. While they have similar expertise in many areas, over time each has developed their own areas of specialty – Scott looks after the spraying, many field tasks and digging and Frank tends to look after the mechanical end of the operation and also looks after the business tasks and potato sales.
They feel very fortunate that they have a good local crew who return for the digging and packing season every year. Right now they have many employees who are on the senior end of the age scale. John Kenny is perhaps the oldest - a regular truck driver and an active senior in his 80’s
who looks forward to the fall harvest season every year. He has a keen interest in the farm and stops by now and then to see how the crop is growing during the summer.
Younger workers include the family members who have also chosen farming as a career. Scott’s two sons Matt and Mitchell have been working with their father and uncle for several years now. They play an active role in all farm operations, learning the ropes in all round field work, machinery and truck operations, packing lines operation and machinery maintenance. Scott’s younger children, son Mason and daughter Mary, help out when they can. Frank’s daughters, Shelby, who lives in Stratford, and Brittany, who is a nurse in the United States, are grown and living away from home but they have certainly benefitted from a good work ethic and close family ties developed while growing up on the family farm. Shelby is close enough to still help out from time to time. Scott’s wife Adrianne and Frank’s wife Vicki both work off the farm and are crucial members of the team as well!
The Power brothers also have several siblings close by: Mary (Merlin Trainor) works at McKenna Brothers, Stella operates Stella’s Food Truck in Montague which uses Power Farms potatoes and Kathleen (Albert Trainor) lives in the local area as well.
Frank and Scott look around the farm and say it is hard to believe that they have moved from the one row digger to the modern technology of today. They operate a three row Allan digger which can pick up 13 rows at a time and use GPS on their tractors. They wash and pack their potatoes with technology available when needed for metal detection and to x-ray for hollow heart.
One of the requirements of farming today that they did not have to deal with when they started out is the paperwork and regulation. They are Canada GAP certified for their fresh potatoes and
must keep records and take courses to stay current in areas such as pesticide application certification, buffer zone compliance, maintenance of an up-to-date Environmental Farm Plan and advancements in crop production practices and soil conservation efforts.
The Powers are proud of what they have achieved as they mark this milestone in their farming career. As the farm continues to evolve, and the uncertainty with the COVID-19 situation continues, it looks like the next 25 years will be as challenging and full of change as the first 25.