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Timothy Linkletter forging a produce career, a family and dedication to faith

At age 27, Timothy Linkletter, a partner in Linkletter Farms, a potato producer located on the outskirts of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, has his arms wrapped solidly around his career, his family and his faith. The company was incorporated in 1965 by his grandfather, Leigh Linkletter, and his brother, Garth Linkletter, but its history goes back centuries.

Amanda and Timothy Linkletter with their children, Jeremiah, Josiah and Jaelle.

"Both Leigh and Garth are still living, and they both stop in the office on occasion," said Mr. Linkletter. "Today the company is owned by six partners: Leigh's sons, Dale and Gary; Garth's son, Mark; Garth's son-in-law, Jim Marchbank; my brother-in-law, Mark MacEwen; and myself. Dale is my dad."

Linkletter Farms has great longevity for a North American family-owned produce business. It dates back to the 1400s when the "Linklaters" lived in the Orkney Islands, off the northern coast of Scotland. As a result of increasing poverty there, the family ancestors made their way to North America to start a new life.

In 1783, George Linkletter moved from the United States to PEI and was given land by the King of England. The family settled on Lot 17, just outside of Summerside.

"We came to PEI from the U.S. with the loyalists after the Civil War," said Mr. Linkletter. "George passed his farm on to his son, and it continued to be passed down to future generations of family members over the centuries."

Mr. Linkletter has worked on the family farm since he can remember, although he said he was always encouraged to have other career plans. He attended Atlantic Baptist University, which is now Crandall University, in Moncton, New Brunswick, where he studied psychology. While there, he met his wife, Amanda, who was from Wallace, Nova Scotia. She was studying English literature with plans to go into education. They married in 2004, and both graduated with bachelor's degrees in 2005.

"Everyone in my generation was encouraged to get an education in a field other than agriculture, just as a backup," said Mr. Linkletter. "But I have wanted to work for our family company for as long as I can remember. I have no plans to go into psychology as a profession, although I sometimes consider going back to college for my master's degree."

In the meantime, Mr. Linkletter has his sights set on mechanics and field operations, and he hopes to gain more education in these fields. The company produces primarily table stock potatoes, but does grow some processing potatoes as well. It produces on about 1,500 acres on its own farm, with a good rotation of hay, wheat, barley and soybeans. It also sources potatoes from growing partners, depending on market demands.

"When I first joined the company I was in the partner in training program," he said. "Depending on each person's situation, the program generally runs for four to five years. I stepped in a bit early, likely because I had so much experience on the farm.

"You learn best in the area that most interests you," he continued. "I was always more interested in mechanics and field operations. Today I'm involved with tillage in the spring, planting, cultivation, combining the grain and operating the six-row windrower during potato harvest. During our quiet season, I work in the mechanic's shop where we rebuild engines and service our tractors and trucks. We work on having our field equipment ready for the next season."

Linkletter Farms plants grain in mid to late April, and potatoes from early to mid-May. Grain has always been a rotational crop for the company, but Mr. Linkletter said that today it is starting to become an actual market crop. Grain harvesting starts in mid-August, and potato harvesting commences in late September.

"I do a lot of field work, such as land preparation, and grain and potato harvesting," he added. "I operate equipment, but I am learning more about nutrients and crop management. This is a very specific job with potatoes."

Mr. Linkletter and his wife are spending the majority of their free time with their children. Jeremiah is the oldest at four years old, while daughter Jaelle is two, and another son, Josiah, was born Jan. 4.

"Amanda is a stay-at-home mom," said Mr. Linkletter. "It is important to us to not miss out on our childrens' lives. We work together on our homestead, and when she does have time, Amanda likes scrapbooking and painting."

The "homestead" is an older house which is on original Linkletter property. The couple bought it from Mr. Linkletter's father.

"Some of the structure is about 200 years old," he said. "Each generation has added on to it. Today, it's a four-bedroom home. It's nice to know that we are in the house that the original Linkletters settled in. Enough oral history has been passed down through the generations that we know how it's been changed over the years."

The couple enjoys snowmobiling, skiing and kayaking, and "the quiet cups of coffee and tea when we can grab them together," Mr. Linkletter added. "Amanda played soccer when she was younger, and she still enjoys kicking the ball around."

Along with the rest of the Linkletter family, they are strongly involved with their church, the Summerside Community Church in P.E.I.

The church partners with IRIS Ministries, an organization that does missionary work in Mozambique, Africa. Mr. Linkletter's father traveled there in November 2010 to lend a hand. He was stationed at two different orphanages doing maintenance work and repairs, and assisting with medical work in an eye clinic.

"Amanda and I want to go there to help out, but we'll have to wait until our children are older," said Mr. Linkletter. "Hopefully we'll be able to take them with us. It makes a big difference in life to find such a calling. In the meantime, I participate in our church by playing the drums during worship and at youth group events, and I'm trying to get more involved playing for the kids at church. I started playing the drums when I was in the sixth grade. Today, when I play acoustics, I play the hand drum, called the djembe, which is an African drum."

Mr. Linkletter also plans to take his wife to the Orkney Islands, where his ancestors originated. They would also like to travel throughout England.

In February, he said that the packingshed at Linkletter Farms was quite busy, and spring equipment was being readied at the shop.

"Our kids are doing well and growing like weeds," he added. "It must be all those good potatoes we feed them."