There are two important tools required to pass agricultural heritage and diversity from one generation to the next: seeds and knowledge. Long-time Prince George farmer John Ryser possesses both in vast quantities and is eager to share.
John began farming in the 1930’s, and from a young age, he excelled at his trade. For thirteen years in a row, John won the potato section of the BC Provincial Seed Fair, and though the competition no longer exists, his potatoes are still infamous among his farming colleagues.
John has seen over seven decades of agriculture in the north, and it’s clear that the state of farms and food today is in need of big changes. As a seed grower, John continues to supply Art Knapps and other garden merchants with quality seed potato, but grocery stores no longer purchase from him in favour of larger centralized warehouses in Alberta and the Lower Mainland. John currently cultivates only a fraction of the land and varieties he once did. Many good northern varieties of potato have been lost because there are simply no more farmers growing them.
But these challenges have not put a damper on John’s passion for growing. He continues to cultivate more than eleven varieties of potatoes and sell them at the Prince George Farmers Market. He says he’ll rust if he ever stops. John is optimistic that the Beyond the Market program will spark consumer change in north; he hopes to up his production in 2011, just in case.