Valley sweet potato farmers making international impact

Valley sweet potato farmers making international impact

The C.O. Keddy Nursery outside Kentville, N.S. has been growing for just about 40 years.

It was started by Charles and his wife Doris shortly after they graduated from agricultural college together in the 1970s.

Although Charles didn’t have a farming background, he was set on becoming one.

“At a young age really knew that he wanted to be a farmer or be involved in growing produce or vegetables,” says his son, Phil Keddy.

When Charles and Doris first started, they were growing strawberry plants.

“It was just a small farm at that time,” says Phil. “Now we’re one of the largest strawberry plant nursery growers in Canada.”

In recent years Phil and his wife Katie have taken over the majority of the operations on the farm.

The younger Keddy has also added his own crop to the gardens — sweet potatoes.

“I was looking for something that I could call my own and make my own management decisions and bring to the farm to build the size of it,” he tells NEWS 95.7’s The Weekend Gardener.

The sweet potatoes started on a small scale back in 2006, and Keddy says they have grown the operation each year since.

“For a few years we didn’t think the looked very big, they weren’t what you see in the store shelves today,” he explains. “So we spent a few more years developing some techniques and how we could actually make it work, and then we approached store vendors like Sobeys to move our product for us.”

Now, the Keddys grow 1.7 million pounds of sweet potatoes annually. It’s all done by hand to protect the product.

“The skin is so delicate out of the ground,” Phil explains. “So we do it all by hand and get it into our building, so we can cure it with heat like an onion, and then it protects it.”

The Keddy Farm is already one of the biggest sweet potato producers in Eastern Canada, but they’ll get an extra publicity boost next week when featured in online docu-series Real Farm Lives.

“The day they started filming, I think 15 of them showed up, and we kind of looked at each other and were like, this is a big deal,” says Katie Keddy about the experience.

The two episodes featuring the Keddys will go live on October 8.

The Keddys say the crew spent a few days on the farm documenting their daily lives.

“They’re going to see our day to day. Me and Katie checking fields and looking at the crops, and there’s a lot of nice family moments put in there.” says Phil.

The couple’s two children, ages five and seven also play a part on the farm.

“They’ve got a little farm stand set up this year where they’re selling some produce,” Katie explains. “It’s amazing to watch them grow up as farm kids.”

Phil says the harvest of sweet potatoes this year will begin just after Thanksgiving.

“The day that we stop digging strawberries is the day that we start digging sweet potatoes,” he says. “It takes us about 10-12 days with about 80 people harvesting. We’re pretty efficient once we get out there.”

The products will show up across the province in Sobey’s stores across the province, Hutten Farms stand at the Brewery Market and farmer’s markets in the Annapolis Valley like Avery’s and Stirling’s.

National News Jon Cartu

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