Four potato growers from Prince Edward Island were honoured in March for their contributions to the industry over the years through the Potato Industry Recognition Awards, the P.E.I. Potato Board says in a news release on April 5.
The four growers were Peter McKenna, Charles and Wilhelmina Murphy, and Morley Wood. The awards recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the industry through their business dealings and volunteering in the potato industry. They are usually presented at the board’s annual banquet, which did not happen this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, instead the awards were presented at the Board’s monthly meeting in March.
McKenna grew up in eastern P.E.I. on the 48 Road where he learned the potato business from his father and uncle. He started working for the family potato brokerage and packing business after leaving school in 1979.
In the late 1980’s the McKenna brothers took over the export business Island Shipping. This allowed them to expand to the offshore export market. McKenna became well respected by buyers in South America and domestically.
McKenna was active as an executive on the P.E.I. Exporter Association for many years and was also a member of the board of Potatoes Canada in the 1980s and 1990s. He also advocated to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on phytosanitary negotiation agreements to allow Canadian seed shipments internationally.
He still lives on the 48 Road with his wife Kelly, daughter Morgan and son-in-law to be Jean-Marc Evans-Renaud. McKenna is now in business with his son Matthew, the release notes. Their focus is on the shipment of high-quality seed potatoes and bringing new potato varieties to Island farmers.
Charles Murphy grew up a mixed farm of dairy, pork, chickens, potatoes and cash crops, the release notes. He graduated from St. Dunstan’s High School and took business and law courses at the University of P.E.I. He also completed a farm mechanics course at the Provincial Vocational Institute.
Wilhelmina Murphy immigrated to Canada from Holland with her parents in 1953. She went to school in Vernon Bridge and Montague. She then graduated from Union Commercial College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. with a diploma in bookkeeping and financial planning.
Charles and Wilhelmina Murphy have had a life-long passion for agriculture and have farmed for more than 53 years, the release notes. In the early years, they had dairy, pork, beef, cole crops, turnips, tobacco and cash crops. In the 1970’s their interests led them to growing contract seed potatoes for the P.E.I. Potato Board.
Charles was one of the early Elite Seed potato contract producers. For a time, the Murphy farm provided a back-up location for the Fox Island Elite Seed Farm called the China Point plots, growing as many as 96 seed lots of various varieties and classes. In 1993 they started their own screen house nuclear production which they continue to the present day.
In 2007, the Murphy Farm won the Canadian Horticultural Council International Award for Champion Seed Potatoes at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Ont.
They have held numerous leadership roles over the years including being involved with the Potato Producers Association of P.E.I., the P.E.I. Potato Board and the Farm Practices Review Board. Charles is a current member of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, the National Farmers’ Union, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, and SeCan.
They are currently transitioning the farm over to their two sons Randy and Francis, the release notes.
Morley Wood grew up in Mount Tryon and is the fifth generation to farm the land near Albany, P.E.I. His two sons Greg and Jeff are the sixth generation, and his grandson Alex is also home on the farm.
They grow seed and tablestock potatoes with a packing shed on the farm. Wood has served in many leadership roles over the years including being chair of the P.E.I. Potato Board for four terms — the most ever by anyone. He has also been a long-term director on the Canadian Horticultural Council.
Wood has served on the board of the United Potato Growers of Canada and was involved in forming the organization and its sister organization, the United Potato Growers of America. Returns for growers have improved over the years as the organizations have built their supply and demand data collection capabilities and shared this information with grower, building relationships between potato industry representatives which have strengthened over that time, the release notes.