After a career spent working in agriculture, Kevin MacIsaac is retiring.
It seemed fitting to retire this fall. On Oct. 1, 2011, Kevin MacIsaac was hired as the general manager for the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC). At the time he wasn’t sure he was the right person for the job as he wasn’t a numbers guy.
“I was a little apprehensive when I started because it’s a number crunching job some days. And I wasn’t sure if I had the strength,” MacIsaac says in a phone interview.
It worked out though, as MacIsaac learned the data and stayed with UPGC for 10 years.
Just a Farm Boy
MacIsaac grew up on the family farm, Lily Pond Farms Ltd., in Bear River, P.E.I. Growing up, his family operated a dairy and grains operation. He attended the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, where he had originally planned to be a veterinarian. After not being accepted to the program, he turned his attention to crop science. He then attended the University of Guelph to finish his degree.
“My classmates and I had lots of job offers when we finished because the industry was very much a booming section in the crop areas, growing corn and soybeans, all the inputs you use, for marketing and so on,” he says.
He accepted a field crop specialist position in New Brunswick. While there though he started to feel the call back to the farm and eventually found himself moving home to work on the family farm in 1984.
When his brother Blair moved home, they decided it was time to get out of the dairy business. They found themselves turning to the potatoes in 1993, which they were surrounded by in Prince Edward Island.
“We started into it, and just kept expanding each year. It was a very good time to enter because there was all sorts of room for expansion. Particularly the processing industry was really taking off,” MacIsaac says.
MacIsaac quickly became an integral part of the potato industry, serving stints as the chair of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board and taking part on the processing committee.
When MacIsaac and his brother started making their succession plan, they realized they needed to start winding down on their farming operation. This meant they weren’t going to grow potatoes anymore, but they would continue to farm and grow other crops. MacIsaac then received a call from UPGC. They were looking for a new manager and thought he would be a good fit.
MacIsaac was well known from his days serving on the P.E.I. Potato Board and the processing committee. He knew potato industry people in other parts of the country from attending various meetings.
“He was more than just a grower. He was a guy that was qualified, but he is a person who was who was qualified to review the data at the same time and share it with his counterparts,” Ray Keenan, chair of UPGC, explains in a phone interview.
MacIsaac decided to try the job for a year, and he never looked back. Over the next 10 years he worked to improve UPGC’s data collection and sharing. He also cultivated the group’s relationship with their American counterparts, the United Potato Growers of America.
“He certainly will be leaving the United Potato Growers of Canada in a much better, much stronger position, and certainly I know the organizations across the country have appreciated his work,” Keenan says.