Knowing Your Roots

Posts tagged ‘seed potatoes’

More on the Potato Virus Y Story – Beware of What You Import!

In our last blog post on the New Family Farm, Natalie Hernandez explained that there are many different aphid species that can pose a major threat to seed potato farmers as carriers of Potato virus Y (PVY) – a serious concern for seed producers.  In this follow up story, we will see how one of those aphid species—the soybean aphid, an accidentally-introduced pest from the Far East—is linked to two other deliberately-introduced invasive species, common buckthorn and the Asian lady beetle, which have each emerged as serious pests in their own right.

Blog 11_1It all began with common buckthorn, a fast-growing shrub that was brought to the US from Europe in the early 1900s to use as a windbreak plant to reduce soil erosion in Midwestern farm fields. It did a poor job as a windbreak but survived and flourished in southern Wisconsin and Michigan where it has become a serious threat to woodlots because it outcompetes natural vegetation.   (more…)

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The delights and challenges of growing food in Wisconsin

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It’s mid-June already! Summer is officially here and with temperatures in the 80s, it’s hard to think back even a few months and remember that in mid-March we were all wondering if life in the land of living plants was ever going to start again!  Imagine if you can, the last 3 weeks of March when we averaged 43 degrees F for a high and a frigid 24 for a low—with snow everywhere to boot. Now, fast forward to June 1st, the last 3 weeks have blessed us with 74 and 51 for the highs and lows! This is surely why we love living in Wisconsin, it’s an adventure!

Our farmers love this climate and thrive on battling the odds and defeating what Mother Nature throws at them. When the remnants of March blew in the Central Sands, the tractors were ready, the potato growers were primed with new knowledge and ideas from their winter meetings, and the sheds were full of healthy seed potatoes ready to be lovingly inserted into that rich soil for another crop year. But a peek outside revealed their fields as a bleak, snow-covered artic landscape with no end in sight. They waited, as farmers do so well, through most of April this year, and their patience was rewarded with a sunny and warm May that brought blossoms to the wind breaks protecting their fields and allowed them to show the world just how good they are at getting close to 50,000 acres of potatoes planted in a few short weeks!   (more…)

Thoughts for Food: Let the Season Begin!

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It’s April, and in the Central Sands farmers are beginning to stir and get ready for action in the fields!  The wind is from the south, and gentle spring rains are recharging the groundwater. The landscape is about to be awoken and soon to be thriving with growing vegetables–the Central Sands region is one of the nation’s premier potato and vegetable production areas. Just the warm and earthy smell of the soil after rain is an elixir to the farmers; they are ready for the season to begin! (more…)

Making the Perfect Potato: The Incredible Journey

Blog 12 - Baked
When you are enjoying a delicious baked potato, take a minute to reflect on where it came from. There is a pretty good chance it was grown in Wisconsin, which ranks 3rd in US potato production.  However, the journey it took to become good enough to get to your plate is a fascinating one. (more…)

Sharing the Bounty – Part 2, Potatoes to Those in Need

Potatoes are among the most nutritious and satisfying of all the vegetables, and since they can be stored for long periods of time, they can be shipped and used to help to reduce hunger in faraway areas where food is in short supply.  To help people in need, Wisconsin potato growers have successfully provided potatoes to local food pantries, and now are looking to respond to needs in other parts of the United States and even overseas.  Examples of these efforts are:

Food for Hurricane Sandy Victims

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When the victims of hurricane Sandy were still reeling from the storm’s devastating effects and food reserves were dwindling, the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association quickly stepped forward to supply healthy and hearty Wisconsin potatoes to some of the hardest hit areas like Staten Island. Under the leadership of Sowinski Farms in Rhinelander, over a dozen Wisconsin potato farms throughout the state came together in less than a week to assemble 80,000 lbs of potatoes and the necessary semi-trucks to deliver them to the City Harvest food pantry in Long Island City for local distribution to needy residents. This generosity, which can only stem from the whole industry working together, is typical of the Wisconsin potato growers.  As John Hein of Sowinski Farms noted, “Someday, our area may need the same kind of assistance, so it’s nice to be able to help.”

African Seed Potatoes

Blog 9 - African Seed PotatoesLarry Alsum, a founding member of Wisconsin’s Healthy Grown Potato program, has been active in promoting sustainable farming in Wisconsin and is now working in one of the poorest regions of Africa to extend these practical sustainability lessons to subsistence farming communities.

In January of 2012, Larry and Derrick Smith (also of Alsum Farms and Produce, a grower/packer of vegetables in Arena and Friesland, WI), traveled to the west coast of Africa and visited the countries of Ghana and Liberia.  While there, they focused on sharing their years of experience in sustainable farming in a very practical way.  Larry was convinced that helping the African farmers grow their own potato crops would be the most effective way to meet their future food security needs.  Working with Antigo seed potato growers, the best varieties for West Africa were selected and forty tons of high quality seed potatoes were shipped to those areas.

Larry admits that there are risks “The farmers don’t have the tools or technologies we have here in the states—they have machetes and hoes, that’s it. So each person farms about two acres.  They will each plant small patches of potatoes from this shipment, which should support about 125 families.”

Larry’s optimism has been rewarded; the potatoes arrived in great shape in both countries, and they were planted. On a follow up visit to Liberia, Larry reported that “the potatoes are sprouting, and the farmers are pleased to see that!”

It is rewarding testimony from a far-reaching program that will continue to feed the rural farmers of West Africa for years to come.

 

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