At Eagle Farms they exclusively grow potatoes and contract their grain production out.
Over the years, generational family farm Eagle Farms in Saint-Andre, NB, has had livestock raised on it and other crops grown. These days though, there is only crop the Godbout family is interested in — potatoes.
“My dad always said that if you want to be good at something you just concentrate on the one thing, and ever since it’s pretty much what we’re doing,” Mathieu Godbout says in a phone interview.
Mathieu and his father, Gilles, farm together on the 850-acre non-irrigated potato farm. They grow processing potatoes on contract for McCain Foods and Cavendish Farms. There is also 850 acres of grains grown on a two-year rotation with the potatoes, that the Godbout’s contract out.
The family decided to focus on potatoes as they are a high price selling crop. Mathieu’s uncle used to grow their grain crops, but after he retired, Mathieu and Gilles tried growing clover and rye grass for a few years before deciding to contract the grain production out.
Through the partnership the land also receives extra fertilizing. The farmer currently growing the grain has a digester which he puts waste from the McCain processing plant into. The mixture is then spread across the fields as a fertilizer in the fall and spring.
“Since we’ve been doing it, our organic matter starting to creep up slowly, but surely. And if we can get bigger yields on less acres, well we won’t have to grow as much potato acres and still have the same amount of volume,” Mathieu explains.
Land is scarce and expensive to come by in New Brunswick, so any way to increase production without increasing land is important, Mathieu adds. According to the 2020 Farm Credit Canada Farmland Values Report, farmland in New Brunswick sold for anywhere from $1,800 to $4,800 per acre on average, with some areas selling for higher. The Godbouts were able to expand Eagle Farms’ land base a few years ago by buying a neighbouring farm.
Using green manure to increase soil organic matter is also becoming important with the processors they grow for. Earlier this year, McCain announced all of the potatoes used by the global food processing company will be grown by regenerative agriculture practices by 2030.
“It’s something we always trying to figure out how to do better on our farms, how can I be more sustainable? And that’s pretty much what I’m thinking right now,” Mathieu says about the announcement
The Godbouts have also been focusing on soil compaction by using a sub tiller to decompact the ground for 20 years now. They have also upgraded their harvesting machinery to be more efficient from both a sustainability standpoint and for labour.