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Even ugly potatoes need love: B.C. event shares free food with 3,500 people

Heppell’s Ugly Produce Day distributes vegetables too ugly to sell to those who want them
People picked up free potatoes (as well as some squash and carrots) at the Sept. 17 Ugly Potato Day at the Heppell family farm in South Surrey and again on Saturday, Oct. 14, which was Ugly Produce Day. (Tricia Weel photo)

Ugly produce turned out to be a pretty sweet deal for the thousands who showed up to collect free vegetables at a South Surrey farm on Saturday, Oct. 14.

That’s when the Heppell family again, invited people to help themselves to “ugly” produce at their 184th Street farm, giving away several thousands of pounds of free, homegrown potatoes, squash and free carrots donated by Canadian Farms.

The event – Ugly Produce Day – was a spin-off of Ugly Potato Day, which the Heppells have now hosted a dozen times since June 2022.

“It went super well. We had 3,500 people come by,” Heppell Potato Corp.’s Tyler Heppell said after the Oct. 14 event.

The initiative was launched to help reduce the number of edible potatoes that go to waste due to bruises, growth cracks, or their odd shape, and invites residents – particularly those who are struggling with food security – to stop by the property and fill up on the ‘ugly’ fare that is still perfectly fine to eat.

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

For the Oct. 14 Ugly Produce Day, several farms – from as far away as South Africa and Wisconsin – showed interest in participating in the free event, but many dropped out at the last minute, noted Hepppell.

He wants to see farms from all over – like Johnson Fresh Farms in Alberta, who also participated Oct. 14 – join in to make it a national, or even international, event.

“We’ll keep trying to do this.”

First starting in June 2022, the Heppells also raise funds for several local charities at each “ugly” event, with $4,500 raised on Saturday alone for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Raphael House in Langley and the Cloverdale Community Kitchen.

In addition, Heppell’s company, Ten Servings, offers Ugly Potato merchandise such as T-shirts, hoodies and hats, that also helps his family get their extra “ugly” produce to people in need, online and at each event.

For every item sold, 10 servings of produce that aren’t quite up to the strict cosmetic standards of supermarkets are donated to local food banks, helping to feed the local community and reduce food waste, Heppell said.

While the busy harvest season is now winding down, Heppell said they may host one more ugly produce event this winter.

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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