Sustainability is Baked into Washington State Potato Farming

on Monday, 21 November 2022. Posted in Blog & News, Sustainability

Did you know that sustainability is baked into Washington State potato farming?

99% of Washington’s potato farms are family farms. All too often, when we aren’t personally around farms, there can be a tendency to overlook the fact that farming is a practice and passion that farmers intend on continuing for decades – if not for longer when their kids & grandkids take over.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 001

Because of this, forward-thinking is key for today’s modern, family farmers.

In the ever-iconic Skagit Valley, water is a precious resource. No one knows this better than potato farmers.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 002

Local family farmer Riley conveyed this well when he told me “We need everything around here. We need fish. We need drinking water,” as he showed me the water pump adjacent to the Skagit River and located on his farm.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 003

To Washingtonians, both farmers and non-farmers alike, the 150-mile Skagit River is recognized for its significance to salmon. In its beautiful blue-green waters, 5 species of salmon venture upriver every year to lay their eggs.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 004

With this in mind, programs like the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) were created in partnership with the Skagit Conservation District.

To sum it up, the VSP empowers farmers to take steps to protect critical areas. Specifically, this includes planting trees along river banks as well as cover crops like rye, wheat, & grass. In turn, water and soil health benefit.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 005

And water conservation efforts don’t end there.

Per year, Washington potato growers invest about $1 million in research.

As a result, they utilize new growing methods and better technology like GPS-equipped center pivot systems, otherwise known as lateral irrigation booms.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 006

With this modern watering equipment phasing out irrigation “guns,” comes great news for water efficiency. This is because of increased accuracy of spraying and the ability to set time limits so as only to use just as much water as needed for plants to thrive.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 007

Naturally, this prioritization of research is part of why Washington fields rank 1st in the United States in per acre yield of potatoes. That’s 44% greater potatoes per acre than the national average!

Annually, 30 billion servings of potatoes are created by family farmers in Washington. That’s sure a lot of potassium, protein, Vitamin C, and fiber!!!

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 009

And, the impact of this stretches far beyond our state – it affects countries including the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 010

Of course, it’s hard not to talk about the Skagit River when talking about the intersection of water conservation and potato farming.

While Riley explained the value of the river water pump, it was clear that not only has the pump been crucial to successful crops but that farmers care about responsible use.

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 011

In fact, the pump is only used in the growing season - roughly May through August - and is turned off during periods of rain.

Further, recognizing scale is central to this conversation. Riley painted a clear picture when he mentioned that the pump “takes only a credit card’s thickness off of the river.”

Kara Patajo x WA Potatoes Blog 2 012

Additionally, salmon-focused improvements such as upgraded, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association-approved fish gates are happening in the Skagit Valley. With this, the goal is to direct salmon away from dike and drainage areas and towards the mouth of the river.

Essentially, actions like this acknowledge both the agricultural need for drainage systems and the need to protect salmon spawning efforts.

So although there is no simple answer to conserving water for people, farms, or wildlife, there is no denying that Skagit Valley potato farmers are making strides to play their part.

Bio for Kara Patajo

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.

If you missed it

Northwest RiverPartners ~ Hydropower for a better Northwest

Northwest RiverPartners ~ Hydropower for a better Northwest

Lead the charge for the Northwest to realize its clean energy potential using hydroelectricity as the cornerstone. Northwest RiverPartners is a member-driven organization that serves not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities in Oregon,...

Read more

Washington Grown program partners with QFC

Washington Grown program partners with QFC

MOSES LAKE, Washington – Recently, the popular TV show, Washington Grown, received a large grant from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to expand its education efforts. Part of that expansion includes a partnership with QFC...

Read more

Where Do the Best Potatoes Come From? Washington, Of Course!

Where Do the Best Potatoes Come From? Washington, Of Course!

French Fries, Mashed Potatoes, Baked Potatoes, Potato Salad...There are so many ways that we enjoy potatoes in our lives but have you ever thought about where the potatoes come from? Before spending time with the Washington State Potato...

Read more

Managing Food Shortages Using a Flex-Menu

Managing Food Shortages Using a Flex-Menu

Chef Brenda Wattles, RDN, Contracted Menu Planner for West Ada School District, and Consultant to the Washington State Potato Commission This is the time of year many of us are reflecting on our current year to forecast how much food and what...

Read more

All Your Potatoes Questions Answered

All Your Potatoes Questions Answered

When you think of potatoes, you usually think of the other guy (cough cough Idaho). Well, we are here to tell you that we think the best potatoes actually come from farms right here in Washington! Why? For starters, our soil is superior, and our...

Read more

Join Team Potato

Join Team Potato

JOIN TEAM POTATO AND BECOME PART OF THE WSPC POWERED BY POTATOES TEAM! The Washington State Potato Commission (WSPC) needs your help spreading the word on the health benefits of potatoes for athletes! For many years, potatoes have been...

Read more