Potato Day 2023

on Friday, 03 February 2023. Posted in Blog & News, Sustainability

Moses Lake, Washington— January 30, 2023 Every year, potato farmers from across the region migrate to Olympia, Washington to share this year’s potato harvest and celebrate Potato Day. On February 21, 2023, the staff from the Washington State Potato Commission (WSPC) will accompany farmers to Olympia to help hand out baked potatoes with all the fixings. Potato Day is a fan favorite and according to Matt Harris, Assistant Executive Director at the Washington State Potato Commission, they expect to serve 1,600 potatoes that day and what they don’t serve at the Capitol Building won’t be wasted but delivered to a local food kitchen. On Potato Day, farmers are happy to share what might be the world’s most loved vegetable along with their personal stories of triumphs and struggles growing, harvesting, and packing potatoes.

   This day is not only a day for our Washington potato growers to share the bounty of their crop, but it is an opportunity for them to start a conversation with the legislature on issues confronting them throughout the state. “The most viable voice in Olympia is a farmer,” says Chris Voigt, Executive Director at the Washington State Potato Commission. Matt Harris added, “The personal stories growers share with legislators resonate and are important.” This year, some of the biggest issues facing Washington potato farmers is the ag overtime law and riparian buffers on working lands. Ag overtime was enacted too quickly, and farmers are under hardship managing all new on farm expenses and market disruptions. This has impacted competitiveness growing food for all Washingtons to enjoy.

“What’s impacting growers today is understanding how to manage agricultural overtime when our perishable potato crop must be harvested in late Fall before the first hard frost. Managing riparian habitat on working ag lands adjacent to bodies of water for salmon recovery is also a difficult challenge. We need sensible voluntary stewardship programs,” said Harris. Understanding how ag overtime and riparian buffers will affect Washington farmers is both complex and intertwined.
            For Washington farmers, the ag overtime law is problematic because many other states pay a low minimum wage, with no overtime. Workers in Washington enjoy one of the highest minimum wages across the nation at $15.74. Also problematic, adding mandatory buffersaimed at reducing stream temperatures providing habitat for salmon migrating and spawning on land not connected to salmon bearing streams. “We need voluntary conservation principles that benefit both farmers and the environment,” said Harris. “Farmers need more direct technical expertise from local conservation districts.” Finding solutions that balance the needs of individual farms and the environment is a necessity.

Washington potato farmers want to have an open conversation about how these issues will affect farm families. Over the years, the perspectives shared by potato farmers on this day have helped advance the discussion on riparian buffers and needed research infrastructure improvements to Johnson Hall at Washington State University. It has also brought attention to needed soil health initiatives, provided support to rescue the Odessa aquifer, and helped transform the transportation infrastructure over Snoqualmie Pass leading to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Historically, Potato Day has contributed in positive ways by allowing growers and legislators to meet face to face and start a conversation on issues to produce positive outcomes for our state, environment, and our farms.

So, on February 21, 2023, Washington potato farmers will again migrate to Olympia Washington to share a baked potato. If you can join, come treat yourself to a baked potato topped with what you love. Voigt’s favorite way to top his potato is with salsa and chili; while Harris likes to top his potato with more traditional toppings: butter, sour cream, green onions, bacon, and a little salt and pepper. Expect a festive atmosphere, a few laughs, and a whole lot of potato talk. In addition to the enjoyment of a baked potato, you’ll depart with an entirely unique perspective on potatoes.

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Encouraging school foodservice operators to use more poatoes

Encouraging school foodservice operators to use more poatoes

As America’s Favorite Vegetable, potatoes can help provide students with the nutrients and energy they need to do their best during the school day. That’s why it’s important to remind school foodservice operators that potatoes are not only delicious, but also cost-effective and a nutritious addition to the school menu. In partnership with the School Nutrition Association (SNA), two webinars featured potatoes.  The first webinar, “Maximize Your Menus and Minimize Labor Constraints with Potatoes”, showcased potatoes through on-trend, student-friendly menu innovations and solutions to ease labor strains. The second webinar, “Fun Summer Feeding with Potatoes”, showcased how putting potatoes at the center of the plate can enhance summer feeding programs in fresh and fun ways. Both webinars included a live cooking demonstration with Potatoes USA Culinary Director Chef RJ Harvey, RD and Award-Winning Author Dayle Hayes, MS, RD. The demonstrations were pre-recorded in the Potatoes USA Spud Lab and were a big hit with the participants. Webinars Key Takeaways: Nutritional benefits of potatoes at an affordable price How potatoes can limit food waste Ways potatoes can take over as the center of the plate How serving potatoes to children over the summer can be fun Upon webinar completion, attendees were able to earn continuing education credits. All recipes and resources utilized in the webinar are available on the SNA website for future download. Following are some quotes from the operators who were very engaged in the webinar chat. “My favorite Webinar I’ve seen so far this year. VERY helpful and insightful. Well Done!”  “Love Dayle and RJ as a team. Can they please start a cooking youtube series? ‘Dayle and RJ: Potatoes for All!’” “Great webinar, gained new ideas for using potatoes. Thank you!” SNA is recognized as the authority on school nutrition and utilizes weekly webinars to educate their 50,000+ members. For more information on K-12 School Foodservice marketing activities, email potatoesraisethebar@potatoesusa.com.

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