It takes heaps of management to grow perfectly-sized, quality sweet potatoes. Katie Keddy, of Valley Harvest Sweet Potatoes in Nova Scotia, shares how her farm grows this neat crop, plus strawberries for propagation, blackberries, and raspberries.

Listen to Keddy (@VHsweetpotatoes) in conversation with host Kara Oosterhuis below (with a special guest voice appearance by producer Jay Stroeve)!

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SUMMARY

  • Sweet taters, yo
  • Raised beds, drip tape, and fertigation!
  • Water and fertigation drastically impacts size and yield, it’s highly managed!
  • Where does the water come from?
  • Now digging new ponds, considering the implications
  • Last summer was hot and humid and the sweet potatoes loved it
  • Trading land! Four year rotations with neighbours
  • Is it all on paper? How do you determine everyone’s roles and responsibilities?
  • Would low tunnels be beneficial for sweet potatoes? They grow 60 acres, so low tunnels aren’t feasible for their operation. The black plastic mulch works really well.
  • Sell to large retailers, most stay in Atlantic Canada. It’s a growth industry!
  • They got in at a good time, she says
  • Some farmers markets, but someone else does the standing at the booth
  • Sweet potato vs yam? Yams are way bigger! And their skin looks almost like tree bark
  • Labour force. In high/busy season, upwards of 65 to 70 employees. Jamaican and Mexican labour force. And farm transfers from another farm.
  • Still started off a month behind and ran about 2 weeks late for most of the year
  • The horticulture industry absolutely needs off-shore labour force to arrive each year
  • Hand planted and hand harvested crop, so it’s really labour intensive
  • Some locals started to help out in a pinch, and we hope they stay
  • Multi-generation farm, so there are lots of people, but need to refine the human resources
  • COVID-19 has certainly been a challenge but has provided opportunity to reflect and focus
  • Trial this year on biodegradable plastic mulch. Dedicated about an acre to it. They try new trials every year!
  • Harvest foundation strawberry stock for Florida. So cool!
  • Blackberries and raspberries, too.
  • Harvest all the way into December, and begin again in the spring.
  • Her farm and family were featured on Real Farm Lives and it was so out of the comfort zone, but really a great experience

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