New Brunswick’s Shawn Paget is among the new generation of potato farmers working hard to ensure that the industry remains an integral part of Canadian agriculture.
“I’m very optimistic,” says the Simonds, N.B. farmer who’s also chair of Potatoes New Brunswick. “We’re all striving to become more efficient, and the advancements in technology today are allowing us to become better growers and more competitive in the world market.”
Paget’s Riverview Farms is situated in the heart of New Brunswick’s potato belt. His 1,850-acre operation includes 680 acres of processing potatoes, which he grows in rotation with corn, soybeans and seed grains.
Paget is proud to be a supplier to the french fry and potato chip markets. “I sell to McCain and Old Dutch, and it’s satisfying to actually see that product up on the store shelf and to know that you are a part of that,” he says.
We’re all striving to become more efficient, and the advancements in technology today are allowing us to become better growers and more competitive in the world market.
– Shawn Paget
Paget, who turned 41 in January, has actually been farming since 1993. “I’ve been at it for awhile,” he says, adding that he grew up on a small beef and mixed vegetable farm about 15 minutes away from where he lives now.
Like many farms in the area, Riverview Farms has a long history of growing potatoes. It’s a third-generation family operation, which was sold to Paget and his wife Natalie by Natalie’s father in 2013.
Paget takes a progressive view to potato growing, and his focus right now is to do all he can to enhance yields and the quality of his crop while also improving efficiencies on his farm. He hopes to eventually expand his operation, which will have the added benefit of improving his potato product.
“In the next five years, I hope to grow our land base to [allow] a better rotation,” Paget says. “I’m on a two-and-a-half year rotation now. I’d like to go up to a three-year rotation, if not more.”
Paget’s progressive outlook is reflected in his work with Potatoes New Brunswick, the producer-driven organization that plays a crucial role in driving the province’s potato industry forward. He’s a big supporter of the New Brunswick Potato Industry Transformation Initiative, a PNB-led project with the goal of improving many aspects of the province’s potato industry, including boosting potato yields.
Paget has been PNB chair for coming on two years, and he admits it’s not always easy balancing those responsibilities with his farm business and home life. He and Natalie have a five-year-old son, Oliver.
“I have a lot going on here with the farm, and I’ve got a young family, so it is a challenge,” Paget says.
“It can be a little time consuming oftentimes, but then it gives you a broader perspective. It opens you eyes on some of the other issues I don’t necessarily see as a process potato farmer. We get to hear about the seed side and table side, and you get to interact and understand the industry as a whole,” he adds.
“You get to put out your ideas and hear other people’s ideas — we all kind of work together and try to put something out as best as possible for the whole province.”
Paget says he’s grateful PNB has an excellent executive director, Matt Hemphill, taking care of the day-to-day details of the organization.
“He’s a really good guy and he takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Paget says. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know how you’d do it.”