Stephan Dolbec has expanded the family farm to make it a one stop shop from field to store.
Growing up on the family farm, Stephan Dolbec wanted to be out in the fields constantly watching the potato crops grow. Staying inside to do homework was a struggle when he’d rather be riding in the tractor with his father Herman.
“I like it a lot to see everything grow on the farm. When we plant in the spring, when you see it’s good, it’s nice to see the growing. I was very impressed by it when I was young,” Stephan explains in a phone interview.
There was no question what Stephan wanted to do when he grew up — farm. His parents, Herman and Francine, wanted to expand the farm but found themselves struggling to do so as they didn’t speak English, so they sent Stephan to high school in Miami, Fla.
Stephan returned to the farm when he was 17 and started helping to expand their sales into the U.S. Unfortunately, when he was 22 in 1994, he found himself taking over operations of the farm with his mother, after his father passed away in a car accident.
When Stephan took over Patates Dolbec, they were farming 3,500 acres and harvesting over 2,000 acres of potatoes annually. Now Patatoes Dolbec has 10,000 acres and grows 4,000 acres of fresh potatoes annually in Saint-Ubalde, Que. — making them the largest potato producer in the province.
Over the years Herman and Francine had grown and improved the farm, adding top of the line packaging equipment and buying more land, a legacy which Stephan continued. In 2003 Stephan received the Ernst & Young Quebec Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the agri-food sector and a year later he purchased the farm from his mother.
At Patates Dolbec they have 150 employees, grow their own seed, rotational crops of corn, soybeans, oats and rye, and package their potatoes and sell them directly to retailers in their own branded packaging year-round. They recently started a distillery, Ubald Distillerie, which makes potato vodka using Patates Dolbec’s misshaped potatoes, it also produces rye vodka and gin using crops grown on the farm.
Gord Medynski has worked at Patates Dolbec for 20 years as the director of sales, purchasing and business development. He had previously worked as a wholesale purchaser buying potatoes from Patates Dolbec, when he received a call from Stephan asking him to join the company.
“(Stephan’s) very much involved in the daily production planning and on the farm planning, but still enjoys keeping up on sales and market trends. He very much values his team members ideas and input, and that each sector shares information with each other, so the team can make the best decisions for the company,” Medynski says in a phone interview.
Stephan’s teamwork push has paid off, with Patates Dolbec continuing to grow, from updating and expanding the packaging lines to buying more land. They recently installed irrigation infrastructure on 2,500 acres.
His family has been there every step of the way, with his girlfriend Josee Petitclerc who is the director of marketing for Patates Dolbec and Ubald Distillerie, and his sons having started to work in the business. His oldest Zachary is working in business development, Thierry, the middle-aged son, is interested in the seed and farming side of the business, and his youngest Jérémy is showing interest in the sales side of the farm.