Marijke Oudshoorn and Willem van de Wetering will represent the region in the national event later this year
By Diego Flammini
The distance between Holland and Clinton, Ont. is about 5,811 km.
And from Clinton, Ont. to Morell, P.E.I. is another 1,925 km.
Morell is also where Marijke Oudshoorn and Willem van de Wetering, recipients of the 2023 Outstanding Young Farmers award for Atlantic Canada, own and operate Spud Isle Farms, an almost 330-acre potato farm.
The award recognizes farmers between the ages of 18 and 39.
“We were surprised to even be nominated,” Willem told Farms.com. “It’s great to be recognized for what you’re doing, and that people think what you’re doing is working. And now we’re overwhelmed by the fact we won.”
Willem and Marijke grew up on family dairy farms in Holland before their families moved to Ontario in 2007 and 1999, respectively.
Willem became a red seal mechanic while working at a John Deere dealership. Marijke earned her ag business degree from Ridgetown College and Olds College and worked at a local bank while their families’ operated poultry, cash crop and livestock farms.
Marijke, Willem and their family. (Facebook photo).
In 2017 and with zero knowledge of how to grow potatoes, the couple decided to move east to pursue their farming dreams.
“We had travelled out east for holidays and were inspired by what we saw,” Willem said. “We started to look at what the farm market was like, and that’s what got the ball rolling. It was clear it was more affordable to get started out east.”
For context, as of July 1, 2017, the average value per acre of farm land and buildings in Ontario was $10,310, compared to $3,277 in P.E.I, Stats Canada data says.
Marijke and Willem purchased their farm from Blair and Janie MacDonald, Government of P.E.I. documents show.
The relationship between the two couples developed into a mentorship as the MacDonalds helped the newcomers.
“The previous owners stayed around for the first two years, and we took a lot of guidance from them during that time,” Willem said. “We didn’t know what we were doing so it was great to have that support from them.”
Once they felt comfortable, Willem and Marijke started to implement changes on the farm.
“That was actually challenging,” he said. “The old owners were watching us make changes to the farm they had for nearly 30 years.”
This includes using cover crops, grass waterways and reduced tillage while trying not to increase herbicide use.
In addition, they want to extend cover cropping to two years between production years and experiment with new varieties capable of withstanding adverse weather.
“We’re trying things that would probably get classified as regenerative agriculture,” Willem said.
With the regional win, Willem and Marijke will represent Atlantic Canada at the national competition in November and will hope to bring the national honour back to the east coast.
Justin and Laura Rogers, who grow pedigreed seed, forages, and raise beef cattle in Brae, P.E.I, shared the national award with farmers from Quebec in 2019.
Many of the regional winners for 2023 have been announced:
B.C. – Hopcott Farms
Manitoba – Harley and Brooklynn Siemens
Alberta – Greg and Sara Stamp
Saskatchewan – Leguee Farms
The Ontario winners will be announced on Aug. 17, and the winners from Quebec will be announced during the regional event on Aug. 28 and 29.