Hay River family declares a spud-tacular 1st harvest

Anne Boden says her family's first attempt at turning their market garden into a commercial potato farm is a success — despite planting delays and steep startup costs.

Anne Boden dreams big as her family's large-scale potato farm takes root near Hay River, N.W.T.

Anne Boden holding up some Boden Farms spuds last week before her field was harvested. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Anne Boden says her family's first attempt at turning their market garden into a commercial potato farm, Boden Farms Inc., is a success — despite planting delays and steep startup costs.

This weekend, Boden and her husband, Peter Boden, plan to pull about 1,800 kilograms of Russet potatoes, Red Norlands and Yukon Golds from a four-acre field cleared on their overgrown 48-acre riverside property.

The private property is outside Hay River, N.W.T., and previously belonged to her husband's parents who once raised chickens and pigs there.

A sample of the family's fall harvest. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Boden said the spuds are smaller than average because they were three weeks late planting in mid-June, instead of late May. But Boden said the vegetable is delicious just the same.

"They taste so good," said Boden, accentuating the "so." 

"There is no comparison between fresh-picked and what you get in the store."

Previously, the family sold a limited amount of carrots, beets, onions, beans and potatoes grown in a small garden adjacent to their log house.

Last fall, they decided to expand their business for two reasons: their love of locally produced food, and to stay on top of their bills.

The Boden’s 4-acre potato field in full bloom this past summer. (Submitted by Anne Boden)

"So we are paying this huge tax bill on land that is not paying for itself. So [we] thought 'how can we make it pay for itself?' It is great land. It is good soil. It was just the cost of clearing it that was the holdback," Boden said.

Funding challenges for starters

Farming can be expensive, especially when starting out and buying equipment and supplies. After being turned away from the banks and failing to qualify for federal funding, the Bodens contacted the territorial government.

Boden holds bags of potatoes from her family's first harvest. The spuds will be sold in 5- and 10-pound bags. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

The family received approximately $50,000 for equipment, land clearing, greenhouse and shelter construction and marking. 

"Thank goodness for ITI [Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment]," Boden said.

There is no way we made money this year. Our investment was pretty heavy.- Anne Boden, new Hay River potato farmer

The Business Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC) kicked in an additional $78,000 to cover the remaining equipment, seed and fertilizer.

"Every little bit helps but it was piecemeal because there was no central place to put your plan forward, so that's been a challenge," Boden said.

Plans to double potato production

Boden is proud of what her family accomplished in its first year of potato farming.

Future plans include selling the spuds to restaurants and grocery stores, the way Hay River's Polar Eggs does, and offering online sales through their website.

Next year the Bodens plan to double their potato production and add corn.

"There is no way we made money this year. Our investment was pretty heavy. I don't even know about next year, but it definitely will become more profitable because we will not have the capital investment of the equipment,"  Boden said.


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