Surrey, BC –
Thousands of people visited Surrey farm Heppell’s Potatoes on Saturday to take advantage of the fifth “Ugly Potato Day,” an initiative that farmer Tyler Heppell launched this year.
He joined his family farm about nine months ago and soon noticed how much food was being wasted, so he thought of an idea to help reduce the amount.
“Instead of the produce going to cow feed or rotting or not even being sold at all, we decided to give it out to the general public,” he said.
He said Saturday’s event was a success and that the number of visitors has grown exponentially each time the farm has run it.
“We had over 2,000 people in the first two hours, which is more than double we’ve ever had at any other Ugly Potato Day,” Heppell said. “We’re pretty overwhelmed, but pretty happy that we’re able to find home for all this ugly produce.”
The huge turnout is partly due to his massive social media following. Heppell has more than 315,000 TikTok followers and promoted the event online.
Pallavi Naveen, who found out about the event through Heppell’s TiikTok, attended the event.
“I follow him on TikTok. I love what he does,” she said, adding that she learned about food waste in school.
“It’s nice to see that instead of it all being tossed away and going to garbage that so many people can actually eat it,” she said.
An estimated 4,000 people showed up and collected about 45,000 pounds of free vegetables, including potatoes and squash.
Many visitors were surprised the vegetables didn’t meet the beauty standards of grocery stores.
“They’re not ugly,” said visitor Jillian Epp.
“No, I don’t see anything wrong with them. And I don’t like the fact that so many vegetables get thrown out,” Victor Epp added.
Heppell also collected money for charity. He expects at least $5,000 was donated on Saturday.
“I love hearing people’s stories. I think right now, a lot of people, a lot of families are going through hard times because of inflation and how expensive things are,” he said.
While Saturday’s event was the last Ugly Potato Day of this year, Heppell said another one is expected to happen in May, with possible measures to mitigate the traffic.