Knowing Your Roots

Posts tagged ‘food security’

Behind the Scenes: Getting Potatoes to your Plate Takes Time!

Seed potato plantsThis is a wonderful time of year when winter grudgingly gives way to spring and our next growing season. From my third story office windows in Antigo I have the opportunity to see trucks hauling seed potatoes from our seed farms in northern Wisconsin to our commercial farms in the Central Sands and beyond. This flurry of activity lasts for several weeks as farms take in, cut, treat, suberize and warm the seed in preparation for planting.   Like many things in Wisconsin, potatoes can be very unique. We have a multitude of types and varieties to choose from. These types and varieties are very specific in their purpose. Certain types are better for certain uses. There are many russet varieties, some have cooking characteristics for home and restaurant use, we call fresh or table potatoes. While other russets, are best suited for frying (process / frozen). (more…)

Fresh and Local – Farm succession: Where have all the children gone? In Wisconsin, back to the farm!

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Our population is getting old, and the baby boomers are getting ready to retire.  The same is happening with our farmers; what happens when the folks who grow our food decide to retire and not farm anymore?  Will the kids take over? Will the land be sold off?  We need that land for agriculture, so who gets it and for what purpose is a real concern if maintaining a safe and plentiful food supply, providing green space and rural landscapes and fostering rural communities and economies is important!

The USDA Agricultural Census service has been tracking the “graying” population of farmers, and the fastest growing group is over 65.  This trend has been occurring for some time, as fewer and fewer young people have been returning to the farm, and between 2002 and 2007 alone, the number of farmers over 65 grew by nearly 22 percent. The USDA analysis states that, “for every one farmer and rancher under the age of 25, there are five who are 75 or older!”

The key to maintaining these lands in agricultural production is farm succession planning and programs that help farmers develop these plans that enable a smooth transition to a younger generation of farm managers.  Here in Wisconsin, our farmers are bucking the national trend as usual, and we can proudly say that we are in the top 5 US states with the youngest age of head farm operators.  Why is this?  Is it quality of life, or a state philosophy that engenders good planning?  Either way, it is a positive sign for our rural communities, the long-term beauty of agricultural landscapes and the plentiful food supply that we rely on.

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Thoughts for Food: Potato Late Blight

Blog 26Do you know what caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s?

Did you know these problems caused massive hunger, distress, and resulted in mass emigration from the region for many years?

Did you also know that this disease can still be a concern if not properly managed?

And that the fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still attacking!  It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today.  Phytophthora infestans (appropriate name since it “infests”) is the cause of potato late blight; it is a fast moving, community disease, which growers (as well as home gardeners and garden center managers) must take seriously and manage properly to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply.    (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…)

Thoughts for Food: The Security of Our Nation’s Food Supply

It is estimated that we will need to double worldwide crop production by 2050 to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing global population, and yet the availability of agricultural land in the US is declining. Blog 11 - Thoughts for Food

  • How do we face this immense challenge when US agriculture is already operating at peak efficiency?
  • How can we guarantee that Americans will have a safe and reliable food supply at prices they can afford?
  • How can we ensure that our food supply is not dependent on imports (think of what our dependency on foreign oil is doing to our economy)?

The answers to these questions reside in the ingenuity and dedication of American farmers who for centuries have risen to the challenges of producing more with less on fewer acres. Nowhere else is this better exemplified than in Wisconsin (more…)

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