Windiana Farms – Taber, Alberta
"It's something we can touch, slip in our fingers, admire," he says. It makes sense – he has been growing potatoes in that dirt for 25 years. The son of a dairy farmer in British Columbia, Mike set down roots in Southern Alberta in 1990 with a small plot of land and began exploring the dirt, learning what makes it perfect for potatoes. "Alberta's soil is sandy, which potatoes really like. We plan our crops three to five years ahead to keep the land healthy."
Two of Mike's seven children have followed him into the fields – the second generation of Wind potato farmers. Mike jokes that he's "practicing retirement," so his sons are managing more of the day-to-day operations – including his wife's llama business. "We got into llamas in 1996, but they're definitely Cathy's," Mike says. "Maybe I'll groom one, one of these days."
When he isn't out in his fields, you can usually find Mike at the nearby Old Man River, where they built a house on top of a ridge. "It's about as close to heaven as we can get here on earth," he says. "No cell service, and it's so quiet you can hear every animal that walks or flies by."
Farming isn't Mike's job. It's his life. "We're not looking at paychecks – we live and breathe this 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he says. "We don't think of potatoes as a commodity – they're actually what we eat. Our family, friends and neighbors all eat what we grow. We really care and we're personally involved in the growing."
25 – first-generation potato farmer
Regular cut with ketchup!