Food Country with Chef Michael Smith Episode 9: Lily Pond Farms

Date 03/01/2011

Lilypond Farms Food Country 9  Chef Michael Smith

Lily Pond Farms is an award-winning potato farm in Eastern Prince Edward Island. The MacIsaacs are proud stewards of their land and known for their high quality seed, table and processing potatoes.

Lily Pond Farms has perfected the many steps needed to grow a perfect potato. Good ground preparation, cultivating, inspecting and harvesting are carefully blended with a little grace from the weather, a good nutritious bed of soil and lots of love.

Preparing Seed and Planting - First high quality stored seed potatoes are run through a machine which cuts the seed into pieces called sets.

Before the potatoes are planted a soil expert inspects the fields, analyzing the soil and provides the farm with the proper blend of fertilizers in order to yield the best possible crop. The recommended fertility is then spread over the field at a rate determined by the soil analysis. After about 3 days a tractor tills the earth creating a loose bed for the sets to be placed in. The sets are then planted in neat rows three feet apart.

Hilling and Cultivating - Once the sets have been planted the soil is cared for in a way that creates the perfect environment for the growing potatoes. Just before the potato plants push through the soil surface a cultivator machine forms the soil into mounds over the planted potato sets. The cultivator loosens the soil creating a large enough area under the soil for new tubers to form and grow properly. The machine also pulls out any weeds which may have taken root since the sets were planted.

Roguing and Monitoring - The potatoes aren’t just left alone for the growing season. To guarantee the best crop possible the fields are inspected or “rogued” for damaged plants. Viruses can affect the way the potato plant grows and reduce the crops yield. A specialist inspects the fields looking at the plants closely to determine their health. Nutrient deficiencies, insect pests and environmental factors can all affect the yield of the crop.

Windrowing and Harvesting - When the potatoes are large enough to harvest they are unearthed by a windrowing machine which combines several rows into one, so to minimize the amount of handling. A harvester then passes through the field gently picking up the potatoes while sifting out the soil. The potatoes travel through the harvester on perforated belts and are deposited into a large truck driving carefully next to it.

Storing and Ventilating - Potatoes can be stored for up to a year without any loss of quality. They’re at their best when they’re clean and dry so as much soil and rocks are removed from the potatoes as possible before entering storage. The harvested potatoes are sorted and graded then immediately placed in optimal storage conditions. The temperature and moisture inside the storage facility are continually monitored to ensure the best possible environment for storing the potatoes.

Grading and Sorting - When a potato order is received the potatoes are moved from storage onto a conveyor belt. The potatoes are sorted by size and any with bruises, green spots or cuts are discarded.

Packing and Shipping - Potatoes have numerous ways of being packed depending on the order received. A machine is used to fill the containers to the correct weight. The machine consists of numerous scales and is accurate within a few ounces. The final packaged product then heads for market!

For more information about Prince Edward Island famous potatoes or Lily Pond Farms please visit lilypondfarms.com

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