Farmers on P.E.I. destroyed about 300 million pounds of potatoes in 2001.
Farmers on Prince Edward Island are reliving history as they try to figure out how to get rid of potatoes that are currently unable to be sold in the United States.
Growers claim there isn’t enough time to pack and ship the millions of pounds of unsold produce leftover from the export restriction.
Because of the first detection of potato warts in 2001, the U.S. border was also closed, and Island farmers were forced to discard more than 300 million pounds of potatoes.
Many Islanders are familiar with Kevin MacIsaac’s work as general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, but he was also a potato farmer near Bear River, P.E.I., in 2001.
“When I reflect back on it, it’s sort of an emotional decision because of all the things you do cultivate potatoes, the last thing you expect is to have to take them out and destroy them,” MacIsaac said.
“I figured that once in a lifetime would suffice. But now it’s back.”
‘It was a heartbreaking day,’
According to MacIsaac, he began destroying the crop in February 2001, beginning with a bin of Yukon Golds because he knew they wouldn’t stay as long in storage.
“When we started, it was a really devastating day, and we kind of delayed because we believed there could be a chance the border might open, which didn’t happen,” MacIsaac recalled.
“Every day, at the end of the day, we would have a talk, just as you do after harvest. In 2001, the topic of debate was how many loads were hauled out in the dump truck today, and how many loads were blown away by the snowblower. It’s quite devastating.”
MacIsaac then proceeded to smash two more bins of potatoes, covering a 25-acre area with a thin coating of potatoes to allow them to decompose.
“The goal was to completely destroy the crop so that the potatoes would not be a source of disease infection the following year. The easiest way to achieve this is to expose them to cold temperatures “According to MacIsaac.