The Prince Edward Island Potato Board held its annual awards dinner for the first time since 2020 due to the pandemic, a Nov. 25 news release said. During the evening the Board looked back on how challenging the past few years have been.
“There were many challenges during those years, including COVID-19, Hurricane Fiona, and, most notably, the potato wart crisis of 2021-22,” the release said.
During the evening, the Board thanked P.E.I. Premier Dennis King, former P.E.I. Minister of Agriculture Bloyce Thompson, current P.E.I. Minister of Agriculture Darlene Compton and the rest of the provincial government for their support and hard work during the potato wart crisis, the release noted.
Recognition was also given to retired Member of Parliament Wayne Easter for his work during the potato wart crisis. The release noted while he was no longer a MP, he was still there for the potato industry last year, making trips to Washington and Ottawa and providing persistent correspondence to key contacts.
There were speeches given by Compton, MP Health MacDonald and P.E.I. Potato Board Chair John Visser.
The Potato Board presented Industry Recognition awards for lifelong contributions to the P.E.I. potato industry to Gerald “Jeddy” MacFadyen, John Robinson and Kevin MacIsaac, the release said.
MacFadyen was only 16 when his father passed away, and he and his brother were tasked with taking over the family farm. His dad, Edward, and his cousins were pioneers in the seed potato industry in P.E.I., the release said. In the early years of commercial potato production, he was one of the largest potato farmers in P.E.I., growing 100 to 175 acres. MacFadyen has participated in the growing of over eighty potato crops. He has left an incredible legacy for his sons and now grandsons, making MacFadyen Farms Ltd. a fourth-generation farm. MacFadyen and his wife Joyce have been exemplary community citizens and have contributed to all facets of community life, enriching the lives of all in his church and community, the release noted.
John Robinson, his father Eric, and his brother Allan operated Eric C. Robinson Inc. in Albany, P.E.I., for many years. Their business consisted of a farm, packing shed, and potato dealership, as well as selling grading equipment, handling equipment, cultivating equipment, seed cutters, fertilizer, and crop inputs. John’s chemical engineering background enabled him to give expert advice to his customers. Over the years, John gained a reputation as a fair and honest man, the release said. Their farm was cutting-edge and led the way in trying new crops and production techniques. They were the first in their communities to employ soil conservation techniques, strip cropping, terraces, berms, hedgerows, and more, practicing sustainable agriculture before it was a buzzword. Much success can be attributed to his wife Hazel, who was also very involved in the operations. Philanthropy and support of their community are also a big part of their identity. In 1988 John and Allan banded with six other family farms to construct and operate Mid-Isle Farms Inc., a state-of-the-art packing and washing dealership. John was involved with developing the Canadian Potato Marketing Agency to help align potato supply with demand. His communication skills are excellent, particularly his listening skills.
MacIsaac brought industry insight from many different angles. MacIsaac grew up on his family’s farm in Bear River, P.E.I. He spent some time as a crop specialist in New Brunswick after completing his bachelor of science with a focus on agriculture from the University of Guelph before returning to his family’s farm, where he was involved with dairy, potato, grain, and forage production, the release noted. He served in executive positions with the P.E.I. Soil and Crop Improvement Association, the P.E.I. Potato Board, and other organizations. He later took on the role as the general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC), working to promote information sharing between Canadian Provinces and our United States counterparts. MacIsaac provided great industry support for over 10 years in this role. MacIsaac has been a great spokesman for the industry and worked very hard with his American counterparts during last year’s potato wart crisis. MacIsaac retired from UPGC this year.
There was also a moment taken to honour the 2021 recipients, Peter McKenna, Charles and Wilhelmina Murphy, and Morely Wood as the Board was unable to have a banquet last year, the release noted.
In a reversal of roles, the board of directors shifted the script and offered a plaque as recognition to the P.E.I. Potato Board staff for their hard work during the potato wart crisis, the release said.