Business A Lasting Impression

A Lasting Impression

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[deck]Garry Sloik steps down as head of Keystone Potato Producers Association.[/deck]

After more than 40 years in agriculture and 30-plus years of dedicated service to Manitoba’s Keystone Potato Producers Association, Garry Sloik is stepping down as manager of the association.

His replacement at the KPPA, Dan Sawatzky, admits he has some big shoes to fill, and lauded Sloik for the many skills he brought to the position.

“Working as a provincial agricultural representative provided him with outstanding communication skills. Being employed with Carnation Foods and McCain, followed by being a producer of processing and seed potatoes, allowed a unique perspective to his role as manager of KPPA,” Sawatzky says.

Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada, says Sloik has certainly “left his mark” on the Canadian potato industry.

“I first met Garry in 2000, and my first thought was … what gives this guy such a great practical and down-to-earth sense of the industry? I soon realized it was his background. He was a grower. He understood all of the challenges, rewards and intricacies of growing a potato crop. He previously worked for a processor. He understood all of the challenges and complications of getting product into a plant to make grade on spec. He worked for KPPA. He understood all of the challenges of getting growers to work together and the rewards [of] a job well done,” he says.

MacIsaac recalls Sloik’s tireless efforts to improve returns for potato producers across the country and his dedication to improving relations among various potato associations across North America.

We have very talented, responsible people who truly care and are passionate about the direction of the industry. It’s time for others to step forward and champion Canadian potato growers, and I know they will.

– Garry Sloik

“He was the first chairperson of the United Potato Growers of Canada,” MacIsaac explains. “He had the vision that if potato supply was more evenly matched with demand, it would remove not only surplus potatoes affecting fresh prices but those dragging down processing contract settlements as well.”

Sloik’s willingness to share this vision and address the sticky issue of potato overproduction has benefitted growers in not only Manitoba but right across the country and throughout North America, according to Brenda Simmons, assistant general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board. “I have had the pleasure of working with Garry at the national level for several years, and he has always been a very frank, knowledgeable, credible person with strong interpersonal and negotiating skills,” says Simmons. “He is well-respected throughout the industry, and was influential at the Canada/U.S. Potato Committee and the Potato Marketing Association of North America meetings.”

Sloik says he’s very proud of where the Canadian potato industry stands, and has great hope for where it’s headed. “We have very talented, responsible people who truly care and are passionate about the direction of the industry,” he says. “It’s time for others to step forward and champion for Canadian potato growers, and I know they will.”

Sloik has welcomed the many technology improvements transforming the potato industry over the years. “As a farmer at heart … the new technology, in terms of GPS and storage controls, has been a great improvement. Equipment has made great strides over the years,” he says.

As for future plans, Sloik is looking forward to spending more quality time with his family — especially his grandchildren — as well as working on his golf game. “Spending more time with my wife and family is a priority. We plan to become snowbirds so I can improve my golf swing.”