A file photo of potatoes in June 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Polar Tech, a Yellowknife company that normally deals in boats, ski-doos and power generators, is now a hot spot for another energy source: the common potato.
The supplier is Paradise Valley farmer Greg Haist, who has been trying to sell this season’s crop as fast as he can after his storage unit, which usually allows him to sell over the winter, was compromised in this past spring’s flood.
While Haist says the unit is still partly usable, he lost thousands of dollars’ worth of potatoes this year, and is now wary of relying on it for next spring.
Haist’s search for buyers, previously covered by Cabin Radio, has resulted in several successes. He has been able to sell more than 1,000 lb of potatoes over social media and a further 600 lb to the community of Kakisa.
“They were one of the bigger sales,” said Haist. “They were growing their own crop but had a disappointing result this year, and had been planning on driving down to La Crête to buy more.
“But because of your article they realized there was somebody a little closer than that, so I ended up selling to them.”
This week’s sale is even bigger. A thousand pounds of the finest taters the NWT has to offer will be up for sale in Yellowknife at Polar Tech, available as long as supplies last.
“The moment they arrived, people were asking if they were for sale – so I don’t think they’ll be around for long,” said Polar Tech’s owner, Joey Sutton.
Sutton says that even at a slightly higher price point, the spuds are disappearing from the store.
“We’re selling them at a bit of a premium price compared to the grocery stores but, you know, it hasn’t travelled very far, it’s a northern product, it’s going to taste better. It hasn’t travelled from PEI in a truck for days at who-knows-what temperature and who-knows-how-many bumps in the road.”
Asked if there was any difference between his potatoes and the kind typically available in grocery stores, Haist was diplomatic.
“I can’t compare the taste because I’ve never bought any from the grocery,” he said. “But I do get a lot of compliments on how well people like them. So I’m thinking [Joey’s] interpretation may be correct, that they’re better-tasting. Whether that’s because they’re fresher or not, I don’t know, but they’re good quality.”
When Sutton first heard about the disaster in Hay River, he tried to help as best he could.
“When we got the call that Hay River was underwater, we helped, we did what we could with pumps, generators, everything we had. And then we heard from Garth about this other opportunity to help.”
Garth Wallbridge has been friends with Greg Haist for more than 40 years. He’s a lawyer now, but he often used to help Greg out with potato sales when he owned a wood-stove store in town.
“I knew that he’d suffered from the flood badly,” said Wallbridge. “As a friend, I went down there to help him out. And I’ve been doing some work with Polar Tech so I thought we might be able to help him again.”
For Polar Tech, the idea was an easy sell.
“We get a few more customers in and we get to help a farmer,” said Sutton, “so everyone’s a winner.”