Knowing Your Roots

Posts tagged ‘storage’

Farm Perspectives – Produce Traceability Initiative

 

Many years ago there was a connection between the consumer and the farmer and that connection created a level of trust.  Before the days of large national retailers local produce was a way of life and it was likely that you knew the farmer that grew the food that was being sold at your corner grocery store.  If you didn’t know him, you knew of him and where he was from.

As retailers grew, so did farms.  Instead of selling produce locally the geography of markets expanded, national chains developed distribution centers and produce was shipped further and further away from where it was grown.  This expansion created a disconnect between the producer and the consumer despite the fact that the produce was just as healthy and just as good for you.

Traceability - Bushmans Inc BlogThe Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is designed to do many things, but one of the most important is to help foster that connection between where the food is grown and the consumer.  By being able to trace food back to its place of birth a consumer has a much higher comfort level with that produce and in the consumer’s mind creates that connection back to the land, which is something we should support and embrace as producers.

Of course there are other practical reasons to embrace PTI, the least of which is quickly becoming mandatory when doing business with larger retailers. Being able to trace produce back to the field level is no longer a luxury.  It is quickly becoming a requirement to participate in the marketplace.  Growers who resist implementing PTI will ultimately find themselves on the outside looking in and will ultimately have difficulty finding outlets for their product.    (more…)

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Fresh and Local – A lifetime of learning: Wisconsin potato growers refine their craft

Blog 45

It’s cold out there on the farm! The snow falls, the wind whistles, and there is just not much you can do to get a jump on the coming season—well, not quite. If you are a Wisconsin potato grower, now is the perfect time to refine your skills and learn something new. Wisconsin already enjoys a well-deserved reputation as national leaders in sustainable potato production. In this new era where consumers are increasingly basing their purchasing choices on how sustainably their food is grown, Wisconsin is already ahead of the pack in adopting the practices that are now in demand. They introduced the nation’s first vegetable eco-label with Healthy Grown™ fresh potatoes over a decade ago and are now reaping the benefits of this foresight. A Wisconsin potato grown using practices that sustain the environment, local economies, and the wellbeing of rural communities, can now stack up against the best potatoes you can produce anywhere, and it’s grown right here in your backyard—no extra food miles needed to travel to get here!

Building that kind of advantage does not come without a huge investment! The Wisconsin potato industry invests over $400,000 every year (no small potatoes!) with research partners from the University of Wisconsin to develop the tools that keep Wisconsin on the cutting edge along with the basic science that underpins those tools. The UW potato research and extension team is unrivaled anywhere in using grower support to generate tens of millions of dollars in additional competitive grant funds to advance the industry.

Funding the research and developing the tools that growers can use are only the first steps.  Working together to implement them is the key to success!  This comes through an intensive and continuing educational process involving on-farm field days, local county meetings and culminates in an annual state-wide Grower Education Conference.  Held during the coldest part of the winter in February, this is the “crown jewel” of the Potato Industry’s education program.  Over 350 growers from Wisconsin and around the nation gather together for three days in Stevens Point, WI.

With temperatures hovering around the zero degree mark this year, pickup trucks jammed the parking areas and surrounding streets of the conference center. The lineup of speakers—from Wisconsin, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, Iowa, Washington DC and even Cambridge, England—were on hand to share expertise. An amazing array of forty-two speakers from the University of Wisconsin, representing 11 different academic departments, shared research and recommendations covering all aspects of potato production. Theme areas in 2014 included issues impacting groundwater, pest and nutrient management, breeding, variety development, food safety, storage and overall sustainability. The depth and breadth of this research is remarkable!

One key theme throughout the conference was preserving our groundwater resources for future generations. Presentations covered both the basic science underlying water use by crops and natural vegetation along with how this information can be used to model the interactions between the groundwater aquifer and surface lakes and streams. In-depth discussions of potential and ongoing projects that examine the impact of different crop landscapes on water use, as well as new technologies to deliver water precisely and only where and when it is needed were all part of the intense education the Wisconsin growers experienced.

Everyone left tired but brimming with fresh ideas and a renewed enthusiasm to implement the technologies and practices that will keep Wisconsin at the forefront of sustainable production. So, when the next snowstorm races across the state and those farms appear frozen and inactive, remember that the growers aren’t on winter break!

Thoughts for Food: The growing season may be over but the work goes on!

Blog 39

It is approaching October in the Central Sands of Wisconsin, and the nights are cool and arriving earlier every day. The growing season is over, and harvest is almost complete.  Potatoes are nestled comfortably in their environmentally controlled storages, vegetables are canned and ready to go to consumers across the US, and the fields are planted with cover crops to protect the precious sandy soil from the winds that will come next spring.  You probably think that the growers are now taking a much needed break from the 18 hour days of a long summer and catching some well-deserved R&R.  No such luxury! This is the 21st century, and the entrepreneurial business of farming is a year round job.  Don’t let the cold weather fool you; the winter season is a busy and active time on the farm.

With potatoes, the first order of business is to manage the crop that growers spent the whole season nurturing and protect it for the next 6 months in storage to meet the year-round demand for nutritious potatoes with that “fresh from the ground” feel that we all want.  This is an enormous task. Wisconsin growers produce over 30 million 100 pound sacks and many of these have to be stored in huge, climate-controlled warehouses where sophisticated control systems maintain precise temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels that keep the crop from shrinking, rotting or developing sprouts.  Each week as orders for fresh and plump potatoes come in from retailers and processors across the country, whatever is needed is withdrawn from storage to be washed, sized, packaged and delivered to customers. Managing this huge investment, valued at over $200 million, through a storage season and delivering it to consumers in prime condition when it is needed guarantees that the growers get little time off to enjoy the fruits of their labor!   (more…)

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