Tessa Craig and her younger brother Andrew are the 8th generation of Centerbrook Farm: a small certified organic and conventional potato operation located in North Tryon, PEI. These two driven young farmers are 1 of 3 generations that are still heavily active on the family farm, and are fortunate enough to work alongside their Father Mark, Uncle Brent, and Grandfather Lester. Tessa is a biology honours student at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB but can be found working on the farm whenever she is home, whether it’s for the weekend, holidays, or summer break. Andrew attends Bluefield High School full time, then comes home and helps out on the farm after school. After they finish school, Andrew plans on settling down on the family farm, and Tessa wants to work with animals within the agricultural field. She also wants to continue her involvement with the family’s farming operation. Tessa and Andrew are strong AGvocates and are remarkably proud of their roots and what they do.
Name: Tessa Craig
Occupation: I am a 4th year biology honours student, but work on the farm full time in the summer and anytime I am home.
What does your job entail?
My daily duties change constantly depending on the season and the weather. My university break is from May to August, so I’m primarily involved with the planting and growing seasons. In the spring, my main job is harrowing the fields multiple times to prepare the soil for sowing grain and planting potatoes. I’ll also pick rocks, clear fallen trees, spread fertilizer, weed grain, cut hay, wrap silage, help with machinery repairs, clean/maintain property, do the barnwork, and many other jobs.
Along with helping my dad out on the farm, I also have my own small summer business. I grow and sell certified organic new potatoes that are resold in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, at local produce stores, and at PEI farmer’s markets. The two varieties I grow in the summer are Chieftains, a red potato with white flesh, and Superiors, a round white. In the spring, the rows are covered in a tarp to speed up the growing process. The tarp is temporarily removed once so I can cultivate, which helps control weeds. I use an old two row windrower to uncover the tubers and have two hired hands (younger cousins!) that help me pick them up, filling buckets/trays for transport back to the warehouse. I wash, grade, weigh, bag, and deliver them myself.
How long have you been involved in agriculture\food industry on PEI?
Growing up in a farming family and community means I have been involved with agriculture for as long as I can remember, my whole life really. One of my earliest memories is being in the tractor with my dad, lying behind the seat, and watching the implement move through the earth behind us. It was hypnotizing, and never failed to put me to sleep!
What is your education/experience prior to entering your current job?
I am a 4th year student at Mount Allison University; I will be graduating in the spring with a Bachelor of Science majoring in biology with honors. I’m actually going on a university exchange to New Zealand this year!
Are you involved in any extracurricular or community activities?
I am heavily involved with extracurricular activities at school in Sackville. When I am home, I am very busy with the farm, so volunteering time is limited. I have volunteered for Farm and Food Care’s Breakfast On The Farm, for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Farmer’s Helping Farmers. Andrew and I are both avid mountain bikers; I represented PEI at the last Canada Games. Since being in New Zealand, I’ve been volunteering at the local SPCA because I missed animals so much!
What’s your favourite way to eat PEI Potatoes?
Our homemade french fries are the best I’ve ever tasted, but a classic baked potato is true comfort food. If you’re feeling fancy, I highly recommend leek and potato soup topped with bacon and ADL cheddar cheese, or gnocchi.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Andrew has always wanted to be a potato farmer but it’s not the case for myself; I’m not a big fan of machinery. I never predicted that I would be as involved with the farm as I am right now, I’ve just grown into it. I hope to continue my involvement and someday help Andrew with the farm, but I would really love to work with animals.
What would you want consumers to know about your business and the agriculture/food
As the face of agriculture industry is overtaken by larger corporations, society sometimes forgets that there are small family farms still in operation. Since we are in a climate emergency, farming often tends to come under fire. At Centerbrook Farm we pride ourselves on using sustainable agriculture practices.
Many of the farmers I know take great care to minimize their environmental impact. The land is our livelihood; we care for it to ensure we can feed our families and the world.
Why do you do what you do?
I love farming because I get to be outside, active, and do a wide variety of jobs. Once conquered, the physical and mental challenges that accompany farming provide a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. There is something special about looking at your dinner plate and knowing you grew everything you see. Being involved in the farm is very important to me: it connects me with my family, heritage, and the earth.