Fields to Forks: Five generations of potatoes in Azilda
It’s the "Pride of Azilda" just like it says on the bag. Don Poulin Potatoes has been a business that has seen five generations of farmers grow crops in the Greater Sudbury community of Azilda.
"At one time we were mixed farming like in the old times -- vegetables, cows and all that -- and all of a sudden, my grandpa and dad decided to go to potatoes. We used to grow 20 then 40 then 80 and now we’re up to 400 acres of potatoes," Dan Poulin said.
Poulin and his sister, Louise Mullally, took over the family business from their father. Now Poulin is currently working towards handing over the business to his son.
"So I got to pass the torch someday, so hopefully he’ll continue. He’s really involved. He’s doing a great job. So hopefully the grandsons are going to pick up after their dad," he said.
The potatoes can be found at several local restaurants and chip trucks in the Sudbury area as well as local grocery stores but they can also be found outside the nickel city.
"We go up north to Timmins, in the Sault, in Toronto. We have customers out in Toronto, Kingston, so yep they do travel all over in the Ontario region for sure, but mostly though in the Sudbury region locally," Mullally said.
The siblings said without community support and the evolution of technology, the company would not be in the position it is today. Poulin has been able to introduce GPS satellite fertilization into the operation, something he said not many farmers have, but he and his sister will never forget where it all started.
"It was all manual. We’d open a window in the basement, there’d be this wooden slide, and the employees would just slide the 75-pound jute bag in there," Mullally said.
Poulin Potatoes is currently working towards creating its own packing plant. And while Dan said he’d like to grow even more potatoes, the acres just aren’t there.
"The availability of our land is hard because there’s not too many. You need proper drainage for the potatoes, so sandy soil is the best and now it’s getting hard to purchase those lands," he said.
The family is in the midst of harvesting something they say will last until Thanksgiving, weather permitting. They will quickly fill six storage buildings and may even have to ship potatoes out right away if they run out of room. Mullally said it’s been a very successful year for the crops thanks to lots of rain over the summer months.