Three years ago Henry Bell’s dad gave him a present that would turn him into an entrepreneur and now, a local social media sensation.
“He said, ‘Here’s two acres, go have fun on your holidays,’” says Henry explaining how it all got started.
Digging, planting, dealing with manure and finding a buyer for a crop might not be every young boy’s idea of a fun summer holiday, but it certainly was for Henry. He didn’t have to debate what to do with his two acres, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“Well, my family is Irish, my mom, my dad, my grandma and grandpa. Living in Ireland they used to grow a lot of potatoes and they ate a lot of potatoes. It’s just something I wanted to do. My cousins in Ireland grow potatoes and I wanted to do it too. I wanted to grow something and harvest it.”
Potatoes are very much a staple at the family dinner table, adds cousin Kirsten Bird.
“Not a lot of pasta or rice – just potatoes. If dinner is going to be potatoes every night, you might as well grow them.”
Now the 13-year-old sells red and white potatoes and sunflowers to Village West Urban Market. He hired his grandmother, Marge Bell, cousin Kirsten, and his little brother, Jack Bell, five.
Henry speaks articulately about the whole process. They only use fully natural manure and no herbicides or pesticides. They plant in early May (grandma Marge and Jack have that job). There’s the cultivating, plowing, cutting, weeding and ‘hilling’ to do before the harvest is ready.
“It’s an excellent crop this year,” says Henry. “The weather – nice rain mixed with sun, and the quality of the soil and the nutrients in the soil. I like to choose soil with not much rocks, that helps a lot.”
The potatoes have been selling very well, says Chad Shipmaker, one of the owners of Village West Urban Market.
“We’re proud to promote local youth in agriculture.”
Then Shipmaker put it on their Facebook page. “It’s going Salmon Arm viral. I posted it 24 hours ago and more than 4,000 people had seen it, and over 500 have clicked. This morning a woman from Ireland commented on it.”
Shipmaker says in a couple of days they sold almost 500 pounds.
He sends a text when they need more and the family goes into high gear to harvest before the heat of the day.
Last Thursday by 1 p.m. they delivered 300 pounds of potatoes as well as 40 sunflowers. It took them one-and-a-half hours to do the harvesting and picking.
Bell is saving up his money as he plans for his next year’s harvest.
“I want to buy a potato harvester that shakes them off the ground. I want to buy one that sorts them and puts them straight into a bag.”
“That’s what I do, it will put me out of a job,” jokes Bird.
Jack is also saving his earnings in view of his future in farming.
“I want a tiny John Deere backhoe to dig holes,” he said.