Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's On Your French Fry

Russets On Parade

Notwithstanding a life long habit of playing with my food( making dough balls with white bread,using potatoes for crude ink prints) this is serious.

In a good year  we harvested 500 to 700 pounds of potatoes.  They went into storage in an addition to the garage we call the "summer kitchen".  It's not really a kitchen but a holding area for appliances, freezers and for storing onions and potatoes.  With a cheap milk house electric heater, I can maintain a constant just above freezing temperature.  Onions and potatoes store well up to March when the light and temperatures outside increase and the natural urge to sprout takes over.

500 pounds of spuds is approximately 10 cardboard boxes weighing 50 pounds each.  I'd give 100 pounds to my neighbor for all his help over the year.  Friends at the library got some too.  If you stop by I'll give you ten pounds.  My spuds are totally organic save for the certification.  The local certifying agency charges a bundle for organic certification. Since I wasn't selling them, I didn't need the moniker.I saw lots of abuse by certified organic growers circumventing the rules.

A change in organic rules, according to my organic fertilizer supplier, said I could use the term "organically grown" if I kept records of my fertilizer purchases. This year I bought over 1000 pounds of organic composted poultry manure.  That and the cost of seed, gasoline for machines and an organic garden dust for the potatoes in the early months of siege by Colorado potato beetles brought my costs beyond that of hobby farming".  I toss in 10 hours of labor daily in peak times for free.  It's what I like to do.

 This year I made some decisions.  One, use my own seed potatoes. Two, increase production. Three, sell to the public.The last one is the kicker.  Brace yourself for nose picks driving over our mail box, stopping by late on a Sunday night asking "Are you open?" and cheap-skates.

Our area is second to lowest in the state of per capita income.  People are strapped for cash.  Except for the organic folks in the area, many of the locals are addicted to high fat, high sugar and salt diets. When we moved from Arizona, we were appalled by the obesity we observed in the local population.  When the Kwik Stop has an anniversary celebration, their 25 cent hot dogs cause lines out the front door.  The electric utility throws customer appreciation picnics with free hot dogs, beans and burgers.  The attendance is well over 300 people.  I believe there are 256 persons on the tax rolls for our township.

I did some research yesterday to add to what I know about potatoes.  The object: to be able to speak with some knowledge when selling my potatoes.

When I Googled pesticide use on potatoes, I found many references to McDonald's and a campaign by corporate to reduce the pesticide content of their french fries. I also found an article from www. listing 37 pesticide residues found on potatoes. I had a problem with the link, but here goes again.   . 

Seven of the chemicals are known carcinogens.  Then, I found an article presented to the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society dated 1/18/1997 by Charles M. Benbrook.  The title of the article Steering Clear Of The Pesticide Treadmill. I read it thoroughly while eating breakfast. The presentation was prompted by "possible impacts of pest management and pesticide use of the major new AVIKO USA french fry processing plant in Jamestown" (ND).

A slight detour before I highlight some of Benbrook remarks.

I walk into the library Friday afternoon waving the two articles on potatoes.  The librarian and a volunteer listen to my spiel.   After a minute the librarian's eyes glaze over and she starts to mumble about them darn Republicans. She earned the right to mumble. She's 80+ years old. The volunteer, cutting to the chase, asks me what I'm charging for my spuds and if I'm going to set up a stand somewhere.   Disregard the fact that sitting under a canopy by the US highway outside of Readstown does not allow for work on the farm.  I know no one who I could trust who'd want to sit in 95+ degree heat waiting for that special person to say, as they do to my Amish friends, "You know I can get this cheaper at Wal-Mart."

If you want to know about pesticide use in North Dakota( 6.24 lbs/acre), Minnesota (6), Washington State (124) in 1993, Google Benbrook's article.  You too will glaze over when he goes on to chronicle insecticide and fungicide use.  You don't have to be a farmer to want to know what's on your food.  Potatoes in the form of french fries and potato chips get them on a list of ten foods to avoid( salt and fat).  Another list of 30 foods to avoid ranks potatoes at the top. 

What's the classic image of punishment in the army. Peeling potatoes. Why?  You don't want to eat that peel. Tell people to buy my potatoes.  You can eat the peel, the whole spud and if you don't slather it with high fat sour cream or tons of salted butter it's really good for you.  When I'm 90 I'll be around to say, "Nah, nah, I told ya so!"  Unless I get run over by a customer wanting to buy potatoes.

1 comment:

Ahab said...

Kudos for taking the time to grow healthy potatoes, and for not using pesticides as a matter of course. It's good to see people researching what goes into their food.

By the way, that potato photo is neat!