P.E.I. farmers come together amid tough potato harvest

Looking out across his fields last week, Bryan Maynard said he was quickly losing hope.

There were more than 100 acres of potatoes still in the ground at Farmboys, the farm he co-owns with his brother, Kyle, in Arlington, P.E.I.

With only a few dry days in the weather forecast, he said they didn't know how they were going to harvest it all.

"It's almost a helpless feeling," Bryan Maynard said. "Every day that clicks by in the calendar is a day closer to freeze-up and that's when it's all over."

Submitted by Bryan Maynard

It's been a challenging season for P.E.I. potato farmers trying to harvest their crops. Heavy rain and cold temperatures mean farmers have had limited chances to get their potatoes out of the ground without risking damage.

"You're putting one foot in front of the other and hoping for the best — preparing for the worst," he said. 

But then last Thursday, the phone rang and two other farms offered to help.

"It's overwhelming , like I say, when you don't really ask for help and it's there with open arms." 

'Many hands make light work'

Two neighbouring farms brought their equipment and farm staff over to the Farmboys fields ready to start digging, Kyle Maynard said.

One of them, Urbanville Farms, still had acres of potatoes in the ground, but couldn't harvest them because of the wet conditions.

"I was at a loss for words when I heard they were able to put their own problems aside and just call us and say, 'I've got all our equipment, I've got all of our staff and we what to help you where do you want us to go,"' Kyle Maynard said. 

Submitted by Bryan Maynard

Together they were able to harvest 120 acres of potatoes in one day — a record haul for their farm, Bryan Maynard said. 

John Phillips of West Country Farms was the other farmer who offered to help. He said his crews had finished their harvest that afternoon.

He's no stranger to the stress that comes with a late harvest. His crew headed straight over to the Maynards' farm, happy to lend a hand.

Submitted by Kyle Maynard

"It's a little boost to morale I think, too, when you know you're slugging away at it yourself and you're having problems. Many hands make light work," Phillips said. "So everybody is better off in the end."

Phillips said he and his farm crew will be back in the Maynards' fields this week to help harvest as much as they can.

Working together Island-wide

Kyle Maynard said his farm isn't the only one receiving help from other farmers. While many farmers have finished their harvest for the season, they're not done digging.

"There were two farms that came and helped us, but those weren't the only two farms that called us," he said. "The whole industry is full of people who will put their needs aside to help out a neighbour.

"That was one of the things I always admired about the farming industry. It was always, 'Well … we're done with our crop but we're not done digging.'"

A number of people have taken to social media to show their support for Island farmers helping farmers.

Other farms across the Island have also been helping their neighbours get their crops out of the ground in time.

Bryan Maynard said at this point, just over 80 per cent of their crop has been harvested, which they owe a great deal to the help from their neighbours, something he said he'll never forget.

"I can't wait to tell this story years from now," he said.

"We'll all remember the harvest of 2018 for good and bad reasons, but I think we'll mostly want to talk about how we all came together."

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