CHARLOTTETOWN – Prince Edward Island potato farmers, still reeling from the ban on the island’s fresh potato exports to the U.S., say they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection received over the past two weeks from fellow Canadians. S
Since November 22, potato farmers have thousands of received letters, emails, phone calls and even gifts and other expressions of support from countless people from all walks of life.
“Some of our farmers are absolutely speechless,” says Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, an organization that represents more than 175 potato farmers in P.E.I. “We are bracing for the worst but, thanks to the actions and support of so many, we’ve regained hope that we can muddle through this together with a lot of friendly people.”
Since the ban — imposed Nov. 22 after the discovery yield-reducing potato wart on two island farms — the board has seen a week-over-week increase in engagement on its Facebook account of close to 2,000 per cent and 1,000 per cent growth in impressions.
Engagement on Instagram has similarly grown by more than 700 per cent. The Potato Board’s Twitter account is experiencing the same kind of growth when comparing the same weeks — November 22 to 28 and November 15 to 21. Overall, the organization estimates it has received more than 17,000 individual messages of encouragement via all platforms – email, phone and web-based.
“It’s been overwhelming,” says Jason Webster, a third-generation farmer from Middleton, P.E.I. “Ocean 100 radio station decided they were going to play Stompin’ Tom’s Bud the Spud song on the radio until they reached 10,000 names on a petition supporting our farms. “I even called into the newsroom that day and thanked Kerri Wynne, one of the on-air hosts, personally. That one really got me.”
Canada’s smallest province is likewise circling the wagons with heartening shows of local support and giveaways of the island’s most important product. The P.E.I. Potato Board highlights as examples:
• Starting December 2, Northumberland Ferries is distributing 1,000 bags of potatoes – one bag to every passenger, until they’re gone.
• Paul Llewellyn from Remax Charlottetown set up a truckload of 20 lb potato bags and handed them out to Islanders on November 28.
• Birt’s Furniture, a Charlottetown-based furniture store is providing a 10lb bag of P.E.I. Potatoes with every purchase.
• Maritime Junior A Hockey League team, Summerside Capitals, donned P.E.I. Potato logo stickers on their helmets.
• Bogside Brewery in Montague, P.E.I., picked up a load of potatoes and is offering them to Islanders as “Pay-What-You-Can” with donations going to local food banks.
• Crafters Smokehouse, also in Montague, is highlighting the “Mighty PEI Potato” with three unique poutine dishes, dubbing it “Poutine-A-Palooza”.
• Famous Peppers in Charlottetown is giving away a 5 lb bag of potatoes with every purchase of its famous “Spud Islander” Potato Pizza.
• 21 Breakwater Restaurant in Souris, P.E.I., is running a potato skin special appetizer. Chef Paul LaPierre created the dish and invites Islanders to come and enjoy the “Best potatoes in the world, and support your local farmers.”
• Water’s Edge Restaurant in Charlottetown is offering a complimentary side of Chef’s Choice P.E.I. Potatoes with every meal.
• Jacqueline Sorensen Young Piano Studio, an independent music teacher in Charlottetown, is sending home a bag of potatoes with her students at the end of every lesson.
“Potatoes are very important to our Island, our history and our economy,” says Brian Gallant, sales associate at Birt’s Furniture. “Supporting P.E.I. Potatoes is very, very important to us.”
“The potato industry on P.E.I. is #1,” says Paul Llewellyn from Remax Charlottetown. “There’s nothing else that contributes to this society like potatoes. I’m really hopeful that things will turn around for them. We’ll do everything we can to support them as Islanders.”
“On P.E.I., supporting local means everything,” says Brad Campbell of Bogside Brewery, Crafters and Famous Peppers. “Being a small island, we need to band together and help each other out.”