Norman Wells farmer grows 9,000 potatoes'I'm a workhorse,' says grower
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 17, 2010
Doug Whiteman, the 57-year-old owner of Green Enterprises, has harvested 9,000 pounds of Norlan (red) potatoes on two rows of his two-acre lot, located along a former Nahanni Air airstrip.
What makes the achievement remarkable – besides where it happened – is the fact that Whiteman, who is aided by long-time friend and fellow grower Brian Lickoch, planted only 2,300 seeds last spring.
Last year, "We put in 3,000 pounds of seed and we worked and we weeded and we spent the summer out there watering," said Whiteman. "We got 300 pounds of the smallest, littlest potatoes that you ever saw."
So what did Whiteman, a lifelong gardener known to most as the former public works foreman for the Town of Norman Wells, do differently this year?
First, he consulted a farmer in Prince Edward Island, who gave him tips on how to protect his crop.
Turns out that "killing the tops" – shaving the base of the potato plants with a weed wacker – and leaving them in the ground to harden for three days reduces the risk of cracks, making it easier to extract them from the ground.
In addition, Lickoch obtained several bags of cattle compost from a cattle feed lot in Lethbridge, Alta, which Whiteman suspects also did the trick.
"I'm a workhorse; Brian is a smart workhorse. So if he comes up with an idea he thinks we should try, then that's what we go ahead and try," said Whiteman.
Now it's time to sell them off, at $2 pound.
"We sell them to people in Norman Wells, Tulita and Fort Good Hope. The river is still open right now so people can come by boat and pick them up," he said.
Whiteman has received $45,000 in financial aid from the Northern Agri-Foods Program, one of several agricultural programs jointly funded by the GNWT and the federal government.
He used the money to purchase feed, fertilizer and equipment – cost burdens in previous years, when the amount of good potatoes harvested was minimal.
In addition to growing potatoes, Whiteman also has 70 turkeys and chickens, and he reports also having a good year growing carrots, as well.
"I think he's done pretty good," said Gene Hachey, an agri-food development specialist with the GNWT who has paid multiple visits to check out Whiteman's farm.
"He and Brian have a lot energy, they work hard and they're committed to it."