Born in Russian Ukraine, Pete Peters moved to southern Manitoba when he was eleven. After completing his high school in Gretna, Pete took teacher training at the provincial Normal School. In 1943, Pete enlisted in the RCAF. Upon his return from service, he enrolled in the University of Manitoba where he obtained a BSA. He married Bertha Ammeter in 1941 and together they raised two children, Richard and Cindy.
In 1955, Pete joined the Extension Service of Manitoba Department of Agriculture as the potato specialist. His early work in potato marketing and variety evaluation paved the way for the commercial potato industry in Manitoba. It was during this period that he earned the nickname “Potato Pete” for his hard work, dedication and loyalty. He was a driving force in the establishment of Gardner Sales Co-operative, the Manitoba Potato Commission, the Manitoba Potato Marketing Board and ultimately Peak of the Market.
Pete was heavily involved in getting the processing industry to establish chip and French fry plants in Manitoba, thereby creating more demand for local potatoes. The success of this initiative was testament to Pete’s dedication to enhancing the quality reputation of Manitoba potatoes through improved tubers, storage and grading. Impressed by his success in the potato industry, Manitoba Agriculture assigned other sectors of the horticulture industry to him. The provincial Strawberry Experimental Demonstration Program at Hadashville proved to be the foundation for a commercial fruit industry in Manitoba. Again, Pete’s energy and organizational skills came into play, resulting in the establishment of the Strawberry Growers Association of Manitoba, precursor of the present day Prairie Fruit Growers Association.
Pete served as Secretary-treasurer of the Manitoba Horticultural Association and President of the Western Canadian Society for Horticulture where he revitalized the horticultural periodical The Prairie Gardener. He also wrote and published A Century of Horticulture in Manitoba 1880 – 1980.
Pete was awarded honorary life memberships in the Manitoba Horticultural Association, Vegetable Growers’ Association of Manitoba, Western Canadian Society of Horticulture, Manitoba Institute of Agrologists, and the Strawberry Growers Association. He received the Outstanding Individual Award from the Canadian Society for Horticultural Science, as well as merit awards from the Canadian Horticulture Council, Manitoba Agriculture and the City of Winnipeg.
Pete’s many talents were also put to good use in his community and his church. His multimedia presentations weaving together photography, poetry and music were known and appreciated throughout the province.
Throughout his career Pete was known and respected for his commitment to farmers, many of whom credit his efforts for their success. Despite the fact that some thirty years have passed since he retired, Potato Pete’s legacy is still acknowledged throughout the agriculture industry.