Knowing Your Roots

Archive for June, 2013

Thoughts for Food: Do you know where your food comes from?

med322050When you ask most people “do you know where your food comes from,” what do they say?  Probably “from the grocery store” is the typical flip answer.  Read the labels and all too often you find “produce of Chile” or “grown in Mexico” even “green beans from Kenya”!  We are spoiled in the US and have come to expect all of our fresh food to be available year round.  We do enjoy a truly global marketplace these days, but there is an increasing voice out there that is starting to ask for more details on where their food comes from, so that they can make choices based on broader criteria than what is on the shelf and how much it costs.  Most of us know that food comes from farms, and some know where those farms might be located, but only when there is a problem—or a food safety concern—do we really demand to know the details of who grew it, where it was grown and what practices were followed.  Now, thanks to the efforts of many people—from citizens to scientists—and new digital technologies, we are beginning to be able to “trace-back” where many of our food products grown in the United States come from.   (more…)

Farm Perspectives: Farmers’ Investments Move Industry Ahead; Provide Quality Products

Potato HandsEven though I work for an organization that has family roots that have been growing potatoes for over 100 years, I didn’t get into agriculture until later in life.  I’ll never forget when I first became associated with the potato industry 15 years ago after having a conversation with a potato grower who was much my senior.  He told me that raising potatoes isn’t that big of a deal.  You put some seed in the ground, put a little sunlight on them, give them a little water and fertilizer and they do the rest on their own.  What I’ve found out is that may well be the biggest understatement since astronaut Jim Lovell told Houston he had a problem.

The fact of the matter is farming has become incredibly high tech.  Virtually all aspects of production have been studied and influenced by scientific study.  (more…)

Thoughts for Food: Reuniting Vegetables with Dairy

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Wisconsin leads the nation in both dairy and vegetable production; these industries are keys to Wisconsin’s economy.  They are also vital components of a healthy diet!  It’s not surprising that in the early days of farming in Wisconsin, vegetable production and dairy cows were frequent partners in the farm economy.  Modern day challenges, however, have inevitably led to more specialization in agricultural systems.  With the need to increase production efficiency to meet the food needs of an increasing human population, it’s not a surprise that specialization occurred, and it’s no wonder why these two important staples of early farms drifted apart.  (more…)

Farm Perspectives: Pest Scout helps Reduce Use of Crop Protectants

At Alsum Farms & Produce, our summer weather is finally here and the potatoes are growing fast and are a beautiful thing to see. The reds, whites, and goldens are getting close to row closure and they have started to “hook,” which means they are forming a tuber under the hill. We are seeing marble-sized tubers already and they will be growing fast. Moisture management is critical at this time and we were blessed with a nice rain again this week. The cold wet spring was a problem for the seed pieces, but moisture at this time is a positive as long as we don’t get several inches at one time. We are placing tensiometers in our fields this week to help with monitoring soil moisture. This is one of many ways that we try to make sure we are using best practices to conserve and properly manage our water usage.

Our pest scout position is another valuable tool in our IPM and best practices for potato growing. (more…)

Thoughts for Food: Blight on the landscape!

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There are many pesky concerns for Wisconsin vegetable growers every year—weather, growth problems, pests, water, market demand—but one pest problem, collectively known as foliar or leaf blights, is especially challenging. You have all battled these in your home gardens since they attack crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers. These are the diseases that cause perfectly green plants to break out in brown spots, turn yellow and die prematurely in mid-season just when you are anticipating a delicious harvest. When the leaves begin to yellow and the brown spots appear, many home gardeners run to the garden center seeking a remedy to stave off the impending loss of their carefully nurtured plants only to find that once the disease starts to progress, there is no stopping it.  (more…)

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