Field days. Most potato-producing regions of the country saw at least one of these this past summer, providing growers with the opportunity to learn about new varieties and agronomic practices, check out the latest farm equipment and technologies, and network with their peers and industry types.
And perhaps even as importantly, relax a little bit.
Peter VanderZaag, who was MC at the 2014 Ontario Field Day in Alliston, Ont. in August, will tell you one reason growers enjoy going to field days is to get a bit of a break in their busy summer. “We’re focused on the grindstone, and then we sort of get a chance to say, ‘Hey, how are you guys doing, how are things going?’” says VanderZaag.
He feels field days are typically more relaxed that the off-season potato trade shows and conferences, and that for growers, connecting outdoors at a field day is a great way to catch up with their friends and neighbours.
“You’re out walking around looking at all this new equipment, and there’s more farm talk in a relaxed kind of atmosphere…. Plus there’s always good food,” he laughs.
The potato community is small, and in many respects a family. VanderZaag says for him, the highlight of this year’s Ontario Field Day was when everyone gathered to congratulate his uncle, retired grower Harry Jacob VanderZaag, on his 90th birthday.
“His kids and his grandkids were there, and everybody sang Happy Birthday to him,” he says. “Everybody all thought it was great.”
Spud Smart staff and correspondents visited a number field day events across the country this past summer.
Contributor Lorena Pahl attended the Potato Growers of Alberta South Field Day held in Taber, Alta. in August.
At the University of Guelph’s Potato Research Field Day in August, we spoke to a couple of Ontario research scientists who delivered presentations on the important topic of potato nutrition.
I was fortunate enough to attend a field day event myself. At the Potato Field Trial Tour hosted by the Canada-Manitoba Crop Diversification Centre in Carberry, Man., in August, I was able to see and hear about innovative research work in such areas as nitrogen management and variable rate irrigation (VRI).
Tuber Talk on page 44 includes insights on VRI from agronomist Alison Nelson, whom I met at the field day. Kayly Letkeman was one of those hard at work in one of the nitrogen management test plots when I was out there that day — and her smile graces the cover of this issue of Spud Smart.