Shaun Pelkey doesn’t want to watch innovation happen, he wants to be part of it. That’s why in 2019, he was thrilled to be asked to be a core team member of the McCain Farms of the Future operation.
“Sustainability and regenerative agriculture have been the key drivers and pillars to what we are trying to build with these flagship farming operations,” he said. “I think McCain needs to be the leader and I believe they are doing just that.”
Pelkey and his team at Valley Farms, growing and processing potatoes for the Florenceville & Grand Falls plants, have been at the forefront of what the planned future of sustainable farming will look like.
All Valley Farms land is on a three-year rotation, uses 100 per cent Soil Optix, and significantly reduced phosphorous levels, while conducting trials to reduce nitrogen levels. Pelkey says they’re also looking at moving away from traditional plowing to more of a chisel plow to minimize erosion, applying cover crops in the fall and increasing their acres of whole seed.
“McCain understands that to be around for the next 100 years we need to be able to produce more food sustainably on the same amount of acres if we are going to be able to feed the increasing population,” he said.
Another important reason for Valley Farms to be at the forefront of the transition is Pelkey sees growers becoming more willing to adopt sustainable practices once they see there is real benefits to their operations. He notes that many growers are older and if they don’t have a succession plan in place, that makes it harder to implement practices that could take many years to see the benefits.
For Pelkey and his team, if they can maintain or increase yields with less tillage, as well as less chemical and pesticide use, it’ll prove there’s more sustainable ways to grow potatoes than what they’ve been doing for the last 100+ years.
This is what’s pushing Pelkey and other growers to make sustainability and regenerative agriculture a priority and he’s glad McCain is leading the way.
“By McCain setting the standard and going down this journey with growers, they show the world how important this initiative is,” he said.