Potato farmers 'more vigilant' about fields after tampering
Despite concerns over tampering, producers optimistic about this season's crop
Although the P.E.I. Potato Board says this year's crop looks good ahead of next month's harvesting, concerns remain about the ongoing potato tampering investigation.
Last fall, needles and other metal objects were first detected in Island potatoes from the 2014 season that were sold throughout the Atlantic region. A number of metal objects were again found in potatoes sold in the region this spring.
Farmers still worry that more than half a dozen tampering cases remain unsolved.
The board is offering a $500,000 reward for a tip that leads to an arrest but, so far, there has been no concrete information and police have not yet charged anyone. The deadline for the reward increase is Aug. 16, then it drops back to $100,000.
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Alex Docherty, the potato board's chairman, says he's confident that they're getting some leads and will eventually catch the person.
He says at least 40 packing businesses and farmers have applied for government funding to help purchase metal-detection equipment.
Docherty is part-owner of a packing plant and has ordered screening equipment. He says government funding cover about 30 per cent of the $500,000 price tag.
But Docherty says he would rather invest that money in creating jobs at their facility.
Some farmers are putting up signs in many fields encouraging people to call if they see any suspicious activity.
"I guess you'd have to say there's somewhat of a concern but I think people will be more vigilant in the fields when we're harvesting if we see any soil disturbed or stuff that we perhaps didn't pay attention to before, maybe we will be paying attention to now," said Docherty.
Islanders have been lending help to neighbouring farms, says Brenda Simmons, the board's assistant general manager.
"In some cases, people have put decals on their vehicles just to let them know they are associated with the farms. And it's just extra sets of eyes, which we really appreciate," she said.
Meanwhile, the board has decided to hold a potato social to say thanks to everyone who's supported farmers over this difficult year.
It will take place Aug. 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Monaghan Farms in Norboro.