History of Heppells
The foundation of Heppells farm was laid in early 1920s. Dairy and potato farming was the main business. Initially the farming practices were quite labour intensive and involved lifting the harvest on top of the ground to the truck, handpicking potatoes, packing in 100lb bags, stacking the bags in storage barn and so on. The potatoes were sold unwashed and grading was almost negligible.
Four farm got a complete change over in 1963 when Ron and Dave Heppell bought it. The Heppell brothers embraced automation for growing potato. The change took place at every stage of potato production, right from sowing the seed to harvesting. Almost everything was done mechanically at the farm. However, a few of the labour-intensive farming practices were maintained however limited to hand cutting the potato seed. Along with potatoes, Ron and Dave also focused on other vegetables, and turkey farming.
Consistently practicing effectual integrated farming techniques and updating the farm with the latest equipment automation gave fruitful results and the potato acreage swelled to around 200 acres. Automation helped to earn better profits as the crops were now harvested before the rains (in October) unlike before when the harvest and logistics of the vegetables used to take place after October leading to losses.
Heppell brothers didn’t leave any stone unturned to make the farm reach the zenith. They concentrated on farming methods and production but were always sincerely thoughtful towards Human Resources on the farm. All the employees were bonded with strong work ethic. Self empowerment of each and every employee was also one the main concern for Ron and Dave Heppell.
Second Generation Farming
In 1993, the second generation of the Heppell’s family, Wes Heppell and Pete joined the business to carry the legacy with the same ethics and dignity. They were trained to manage farm operations from the grass roots level until final implementation; effectively and efficiently. Further they were proficient in managing the farm as skinny as possible. Farm management was taken over by Wes and Pete who decided to form a partnership company. They named it as Heppell’s Potato Corp (HPC). The Heppell Brothers, Ron and Dave retired from vegetable farming and focused exclusively on turkey operations.
Automation at the farm solved the problem of labor issues but Heppell’s farm faced the tribulation of selling their crops. Hence they joined with other farmers to start a new marketing co-op, called the Lower Mainland Vegetable Distributors Inc (LMVD). The agency started to unite the vegetable farmers and establish a standard market distribution system.
Through the LMVD sales shot up and HPC expanded every year. Wes and Pete also continued to modernize the farm with planting, harvesting and packaging equipments. The company was now able to extend improved and reliable services to its customers with potatoes packed neatly. Consequently HPC captured more market share. Moving a significant portion of the land base to Sumas from Cloverdale brought an enhanced quality product to its customers, which increased the demand for HPC product.
BC Fresh Inc
Growth brings challenges and this was experienced by Pete and Wes in 2008, with expanding acreage and increased business, the ownership realized that a new level of management was needed as HPC moved from a family farm to a small business. The challenge for ownership was to empower managers to grow the business, while keeping quality and profitability as its core.
Wes and Pete believe that the goal of “HPC being the preferred supplier of Squash and Potatoes in Lower Mainland BC” can be used in all our management areas to spur us in order to change.
Today, HPC has become more than a small business. At peak harvest time, the company employs approximately 70 people (full and part time) for growing, harvesting, grading, packaging and shipping. HPC’s farm produce is grown, washed, packed and then delivered to customers as more than 12,000 metric tons of potatoes, 450 tons of squash, 600 tons of pumpkins, 10,000 tons of corn silage and various other commodities as cover and land rotational crops. Over 80% of HPC crops are shipped within a 100-mile radius. Heppell’s name is synonymous with quality for customers, as they know if it is Heppells it means farm fresh, quality.