Washington Potato Growers are Environmentalists

on Tuesday, 08 November 2022. Posted in Blog & News, Sustainability

As a Washington local and nature lover, I can often be found hiking, paddling, or otherwise exploring our beautiful backyard.


Because of these experiences, I developed a strong awareness and care for how our lifestyles impact nature. So, with every decision I make (like where to grocery shop or what produce to buy) there’s always consideration for the environment. Just as we weigh pros and cons like cost, quality, and convenience while shopping, the natural world deserves thought too. 


That’s why I was THRILLED at the opportunity to discover the sustainability of Washington Potatoes!!


Better yet, the Snapshots of Sustainability event happened in my favorite corner of the state - the undeniably picturesque Skagit Valley. 


In the past, I visited for the annual tulip festival and while traveling to Bellingham. But, this was my first time getting up close and personal with potato fields.


To be honest, farming doesn’t cross my mind as much as it should. We all have our day to day agendas, pressing problems, and families to look after. But, I recognize now that it’s a privilege to have a secure local food system. One that I can count on so reliably that although it sometimes slips my mind, it still supports me everyday. 


And for that, I thank Washington potato farmers. 


Throughout the day I spent touring potato farms, talking with farmers, and well, eating potatoes, one common thread shined through: Skagit Valley potato farmers are environmentalists.


At first glance, I can understand why some may assume that farming and environmentalism are mutually exclusive. If you don’t have first-hand experience farming or don’t personally know anyone who does, then it’s important to reflect. What is your mental picture of farming based on? 


In reality, 99% of Washington potato farms are family farms. 


I had the joy of meeting some of these farmers, and it was clear that they deeply respect and rely on nature. 

As Washington State Potato Commission lobbyist Diana beautifully stated, “No one is more entrusted with the environment than farmers. Farmers are the original environmentalists.” 


Even before Diana said it, this was exactly the impression I was receiving as the farmers shared their experiences. 

For example, potato farmers innately have a long-term view on how they manage their fields and crops. Because if they didn’t, their livelihoods and generational farms would not last the test of time. 


Nowadays, most if not all of the younger Skagit Valley potato farmers are university-educated. To me, this reflects not only a deep passion for how nature works but also a deep understanding for it. Long after graduating from college, they keep advances in science and technology top-of-mind.


As Kraig Knutson of the well-known Knutson Farms said, to be a farmer today “takes smarts and heart.”


One instance of this in the Skagit Valley is the use of GPS on tractors for fertilizer application. Since the technology allows farmers to accurately and efficiently apply fertilizer down to the inch, less diesel is needed. It’s a win-win for farmers and air quality.


Additionally, farmers described the value of soil by deeming it an “asset”, recognized that they are subject to Mother Nature, and heartfully said that “We have to be stewards of our resources.”


That’s why practices like crop rotation (originally an indigenous practice), lateral irrigation booms, and cover crops are indispensable to farmers. Once again, they are good for both the environment and the future success of potato farming. 


In the United States as a whole, the vast majority of farms are family farms. 


That means that environmentally-minded farmers like those in the Skagit Valley are the ones typically in the driver's seat. 


At the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine farmers doing their job (and exploring their passions) without also protecting the land, water, and air that are intertwined over time.


So don’t forget that while Washington potato farmers are hard at work producing 23% of all potatoes in the country, they are doing so as environmentalists.

Kara Patajo x Snapshots of Sustainability 001Kara Patajo x Snapshots of Sustainability 002Kara Patajo x Snapshots of Sustainability 003Kara Patajo x Snapshots of Sustainability 004Kara Patajo x Snapshots of Sustainability 005Kara Patajo x Snapshots of Sustainability 006Kara Patajo

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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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