Locals rallying to support P.E.I. potato industry following halt of exports to U.S.

·3 min read
A popular local Facebook group is asking Islanders and businesses to support the industry by selling potato dishes and cooking them at home. (Cody MacKay/CBC - image credit)
A popular local Facebook group is asking Islanders and businesses to support the industry by selling potato dishes and cooking them at home. (Cody MacKay/CBC - image credit)

Islanders are showing their love for potatoes following the federal government's decision to halt shipping the product from P.E.I. to the United States over concerns about the spread of potato wart.

A popular local Facebook group is asking Islanders and businesses to support the industry by selling dishes made with P.E.I.'s staple vegetable and by encouraging home cooks to use them in their own kitchens and post their creations online.

They're declaring December "potato month."

"Before we could even put out a call to arms, our community came together and said, 'Lets do potatoes,'" said Erin Davis, an administrator on the group P.E.I. Burger and Delicious Food Chat, which has about 11,000 members.

"It's a free group — join it, post what you have. If you are a potato farmer and you have potatoes you want to sell, post your address, tell us where to go."

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

Potato wart disfigures potatoes and reduces yield, making them unmarketable, but is not a threat to human health.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it took the action to halt exports after being notified that the U.S. would act if Canada did not take voluntary measures.

Davis has received several messages from businesses wondering if they can post what they have on their menu to the page. She said she's encouraging such posts, adding that potatoes are "the backbone of a good Island dish."

Businesses are already getting on board with supporting potato farmers in the province.

Caroline Farrell, who runs The Home Plate Restaurant and Bakery in Murray River, P.E.I., said she has decided to do as many dishes incorporating potatoes as she can through December — and she's challenging other restaurants to do the same.

"There's a lot of stuff already that I'll put twists on," she said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Farrell is from Ireland and said the potato is "the big boss" in that country, so she already uses potatoes in a lot of dishes.

A common breakfast dish she serves is called bubble and squeak, a mixture of potato and cabbage that's baked into a flat cake.

But she said she is going to put even more of an onus on potatoes in December.

"There's lots of stuff I'll be doing like that to add to meals or using the potato as the main feature of the meal. I'll be using it in all sorts of ways as much as I possibly can," said Farrell.

Farrell is also planning to sell large bags of potatoes at her bakery. She said she knows it won't offset the money being lost from the U.S. market, but said she felt she had to do something.

"It's raising awareness and getting people to come together, to work together, to believe in themselves they can bring awareness to further outside P.E.I." said Farrell.

Other restaurants are trying to push the potato as well.

Phinley's Diner in Stratford, P.E.I., has also added baked potatoes as a side option as a small way to support the industry, according to their Facebook page.

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