One potato, two potato, three potato, more! 

Cold spring puts a damper on some Pemberton produce, but the potatoes are doing fine

While B.C.'s lower Fraser Valley farmers slog through the rain-fed disaster of rotting, mushy crops, Pemberton's growers suffered little from the onslaught of rain this autumn.

While weather conditions during the growing season have been less than ideal for Sea to Sky farmers, the corridor didn't see the same amount of rain that wreaked havoc in places like Delta and Richmond. However, a colder-than-normal spring did reduce the number of organic vegetables grown north of Whistler, though local farmers like Jennie Helmer of Helmer's Organic Farm are hardly concerned about the smaller yield.

"Although we didn't have a problem getting our crops out, we actually had about 50 per cent less yield this year compared to last year. Most vegetables, the first third of their life is their most important part, and the first third of our potatoes' life was in May when it was cold and wet so they didn't set very well," said Helmer. "It was a lot, but it is one of those things, there's always something. It's farming so you're dealing with unknown variables and if it wasn't that it could have been so many other things and we still had a beautiful crop of really good tasting potatoes and that's always, as a farm, our own focus is that the taste is there all the time, the quality."

At Marty Van Loon's Pemberton Valley Farms, 40 acres of potatoes produced normally this year and the solid yield will likely draw higher sale prices in the wake of the Fraser Valley's loss.

Farmers won't celebrate any rise in prices though, as such occurrences are par for the course in the agriculture world. Pemberton is no stranger to crop disasters and Van Loon listed a number of bad years for valley growers including 1997, when they relied on the help of school children to hand pick potatoes when wet weather threatened the yield.

"We've had several instances like they've just experienced down there, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2003," he said. "Those are all years we've lost potatoes in Pemberton because we've either been flooded by the river or have had huge surface water sitting out on the fields and preventing us from harvesting.

"The Fraser Valley situation will affect us, it'll drive the prices up a little bit, it's a good thing for us, I guess, because the demand is up," continued Van Loon. "I think it will have some effect though potatoes move quite freely across the boarder, so usually it seems like a large local disaster but there is always some other area waiting to make up the difference."

Most Pemberton potato farmers pull their crops out of the ground by late September. Leaving them in the ground past summer allows the skins to set, improving durability for transportation and increasing shelf life. Eighty to 90 per cent of Pemberton potatoes are sold for seed, while the majority of organically grown spuds end up on tables around B.C.



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