Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada
I’ve wanted to visit Potato World ever since I first learned about it while researching my first road trip to the Maritimes. Given that it’s located in a just off of the highway in a small town that’s 90 minutes from the nearest city, I expected a kitschy-tourist experience and a gift shop chock full of potato-themed items, like Mr. Potatohead and potato keychains.
What I found was a serious, modest-sized museum in the French Fry capital of the world that lovingly tells the stories of the technologies used to plant, harvest, and process potatoes. The most significant objects—not only in importance but also in size-include the equipment used to plant, tend to, and harvest potatoes throughout Canadian history.
The exhibit starts with a brief introduction to the potato: as a plant, as a cultural artifact, and as a crop food. (My Peruvian partner was pleased that they acknowledge that the potato originated in Peru. I was fascinated by the story of its quick travels across the globe afterwards.)
The second section of the exhibition explains how potatoes are planted and harvested, illustrating the story with actual farm machinery, including tractors and combines from the past 100 years.
The next section explains how modern science and technology has affected potato farming, from the use of geopositioning systems to treat different sections of a field differently according to specific conditions on that plot of land as well as the massive efforts taken to prevent diseased seeds from taking root (so to speak) in the field.
The fourth section describes the potato industry, naming all of the associations in New Brunswick, briefly describing their missions, and suggesting how each plays a role in the industry. For people interested in industries and occupations, this section probably holds some interest. For others, it may be irrelevant. The presentation in this part of the museum might be enhanced with some graphics and additional information showing how these organizations work together.
The last section talks about the manufacturing and distribution of foods from potatoes, tracking the path of potatoes from field to potato chip bag to plate (and similar places). This section also explores the creation of new varieties of potatoes to meet particular manufacturing needs. Although interesting, it might work better in the section that focuses on the science of potato farming.
The exit area of the exhibition profiles leaders in the local potato industry, such as the McCain brothers who founded McCain Foods.
Throughout the exhibition, the labels are relatively clear and exclusively focus on the big issues, which ensures that the average visitor can easily follow the storyline and can go through the exhibition in a timely manner—important because most visitors are probably like me, just stopping en route to somewhere several hours away. The museum does not document individual items; that’s probably a good choice because visitors probably would not read them.
As I mentioned earlier, the small gift shop in the lobby is surprisingly small and has a sedate selection of a few potato themed trinkets and snack-sized bags of potato chips.
Instead, the majority of floor space is devoted to the Harvest Café (Café Moisson). Although guests are not required to order potatoes, those who do receive generous quantities of fries (the only format available). We ordered a poutine, which was sinfully delicious
|Type of Museum: Specialty, corporate
Highlights of Permanent Collection: Tractors, farm instrumentsNote abut Special Exhibitions: We visited two days before National French Fry Day and watched an artist preparing the largest piece of artwork created with French fries. This seemed to be a one-off event; future visitors should not expect this.
Special amenities: Café that serves fries
Small gift shop
Admission discounts: Seniors, students and children, families
Issues to consider including time: 1 hour to view the museum, another 30 if you plan to eat (don’t miss the poutine)
A great place to stop on a trip between central Canada and the Maritimes.