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South Surrey’s Heppell family farm inspires larger ‘ugly’ event on Oct. 14

Other farms join in for Ugly Produce Day, offering homegrown food for free
The last Ugly Potato Day held at the Heppell family’s potato farm in South Surrey was on Sunday (Sept. 17), with more than 3,000 people showing up for free, homegrown spuds. This Saturday, Oct. 14, they’re holding an Ugly Produce Day event and this time, at least 20 other farms have committed to joining in, from noon to 3 p.m. (Tricia Weel photo)

An initiative that started with one South Surrey family farm has now taken root with other farmers, growing to include more than 20 locations.

Ugly Potato Day at the Heppell family’s South Surrey farm first started last summer, with the family offering free “ugly” potatoes – those that are cracked, oddly shaped or bruised for grocery stores – to the public, as a way to help their local community fight food insecurity.

The most recent event, held on Sept. 17, 2023, saw more than 3,000 people show up to fill up on about 40,000 pounds of free spuds, with more than $3,000 raised for local food banks and charitable causes.

But Heppell Potato Corp’s Tyler Heppell wants it to extend even further than his family’s farm.

That’s why the Heppells and several other farms are holding a bigger event – Ugly Produce Day – on Saturday, Oct. 14, from noon until 3 p.m., and he’s been calling on other farmers to join in, as there’s still time before it happens.

READ ALSO: 40,000 lbs of spuds given away at Heppell Farm’s Ugly Potato Day

“So far, we have 12 farms signed up. We’re hoping to get that up to 25 in the next week and a bit,” Heppell said Thursday (Oct. 5), noting he had received interest from all over North America.

By the weekend, there was interest from at least 20 farms.

“I saw a stat where 20 per cent of Canadians are relying on food banks, and I know food banks are really drowning right now with new clients, so it’s kind of a way to give back to our community and feed our community,” he said.

The event also showcases that food doesn’t have to be pretty to be good to eat.

“Just because produce is misshaped or doesn’t look perfect doesn’t mean it’s not completely fine to eat and nutritious and delicious,” said Heppell.

Plenty of people who are accessing food banks have jobs, but still can’t make ends meet, so that’s why he and his family started the event in the first place, he said.

On the first Ugly Potato Day – held on June 25, 2022 – 12 people showed up for 250 pounds of potatoes, and $75 was raised for local food banks.

But the word started spreading. The second event, held the next month, saw 300 people show up for 2,000 pounds of free spuds, with $250 raised; the next, on July 30, 2022, drew 450 people, with 4,500 pound of potatoes given out, and $800 was raised for local non-profit agencies.

Around 4,500 people came to the next potato giveaway, raising $6,400 for local food banks, with 45,000 pounds of potatoes given away.

The initiative benefits the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Raphael House in Langley and the Cloverdale Community Kitchen, with many who come to collect free “ugly” produce also bring cash or non-perishable food items to donate.

The Heppell family farm, located at 4945 184th St., Surrey.

So far, the list of participating farms for Ugly Produce Day is growing, with farms across B.C. and even other countries, including the U.S. and South Africa, committed to the event.

Rayne McConnell, 7, holds up one of the potatoes the Heppell family were giving away for free at their South Surrey farm on Sunday (Sept. 17), during their Ugly Potato Day event, which was held from about 11:30 a.m. (it started a half-hour early) until 3 p.m. Another event is set for this Saturday. (Tricia Weel photo)

Tricia Weel

About the Author: Tricia Weel

I’m a lifelong writer, and worked as a journalist in community newspapers for more than a decade, from White Rock to Parksville and Qualicum Beach, to Abbotsford and Surrey, from 2001-2012
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