More than potatoes
After 40 years, a diversified Quebec producer manages all aspects of the business for success.
March 4, 2008 By Top Crop Manager
In 1967, Herman Dolbec purchased a potato farm from his father Adrien and four decades later, the next generation is continuing to expand and improve the business. Herman’s son Stephane Dolbec is now president of Patates Dolbec located near Saint-Ubalde and he has distinguished the farm and himself with an award for outstanding entrepreneur. A closer look at the farm shows why he received the award.
With the assistance of Vital Beliveau, who heads up production at Patates Dolbec, and Philippe Parent, the farm’s agronomist, Stephane has improved the farm’s production and diversified its focus to ensure overall success. In addition to Patates Dolbec, the potato production arm of the farm, there is Légubec, a fresh cut processing operation, and a beef feedlot called Ferme G. Rompré. Parent says the culls from potato production go to the feedlot as feed, which removes the problem of what to do with them. This integration is partly what makes Patates Dolbec so successful, but it is only part.
“To stay ahead of the competition, we try to be a leader in best management practices,” explains Parent. “With integration, we are keeping ahead.” He adds that the farm’s specialized production team is the reason the farm can continually improve. Himself, Parent is a research professional with Laval University and each year, the farm has two or three agricultural students on staff who use research projects on the farm to complete their Masters or PhD degrees.
|Philippe Parent keeps detailed records.
“We conduct research that people need at Patates Dolbec,” continues Parent. “There’s research that is fun to know and research that we need to know.” The farm is currently involved in a number of diverse projects including: quantifying the amount of water required to start nitrate leaching in sandy loam and loamy sand, determining cultivar response to added nitrogen and phosphorus, determining the carbon and nitrogen values of beef manure by litter type and storage time, and developing field diagnosis for disease, water and nitrogen using multi-spectral air photos. In all, the farm has eight research and development projects underway. All the projects are part of the focus on integration, which also includes reducing the cost of production, protecting the environment, and testing and implementing new technology.
|Patates Dolbec conducts practical research.
Patates Dolbec needs all the research and integration it can gather because, with 2900 acres planted to potatoes and about 6000 acres in cereals, corn, soybean and canola, the farm developed ways to use all aspects of production good and bad. The culls help feed the cattle and reduce the problem of disposal, and corn harvested with too much moisture can also go to feed the cattle, and the manure goes on the fields.
The farm is diversified in the number of varieties it grows as well, including Superior, Eramosa, Reba, Chieftain, Gold Rush, Yukon Gold, AC Belmont and DR Norland, to name a few. The potato crop goes for processing for fresh cut products, such as Parisienne potatoes, and for tablestock, but the farm also produces seed potatoes and onions for processing.
Despite the farm’s success and its focus on research, integration and best management practices, it always strives to improve and stay ahead of the competition. Parent sees the greatest challenge to potato producers and Patates Dolbec, in particular, as the need to educate the public on the value of potatoes as a source of nutrition. “We need to interest consumers in potatoes by offering them new products and fun or specialized varieties that can be used in new and old recipes,” he says. To do that, he suggests the potato industry needs to keep investing in technology that is relevant for today’s production needs.
|Culls are used as cattle feed.
“We always strive to provide a top quality product and we aim for client satisfaction,” Parent adds. “But whatever we do, we do it with the environment in mind.”
With a goal to offer top quality potatoes while focussing on integration of production for the entire farm, Patates Dolbec has consolidated its operation into a focussed production process that manages waste, encourages better use of resources and uses technology to produce top quality potatoes. It is a farm that honours the past while growing a successful future. -end-