"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief... For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
Modern Potato Agriculture at Zapata Seed:
Known to some yet unrecognized by many, the San Luis Valley is the nation's second largest fresh market producer of potatoes. This is big business. It also supports many, many livelihoods and it is a cornerstone of the San Luis Valley economy in water, soil, and community.
What does it take to grow potatoes successfully year after year?
Take notice, and then the next time you buy relatively cheap potatoes your appreciation for this noble crop will elevate your eating experience to something approaching a Wendell Berry moment....
Since potato seed is actually a clone from a parent tissue potato, and that potato diseases are soil borne, it is essential to start with a certified disease-free potato tissue. Remember Irish potato famine? There was no break in tissue culture, as folks would save potatoes from one harvest to plant for the next crop, each year allowing soil pathogens to take hold of weakening potato tissue. The mis-allocation of Irish resources under British Imperialism played a part in one of the greatest famines and exoduses in human history, but that's another story.
The disease-free potato tissue is then cloned again and again in sterilized potato labs. This means that each potato sprout is divided at the meristems to grow a different plant, each time placing the sprout in a nutrient in sealed jars. This is all done in front of filtered air flow in super-scrupulous methodology.
The potato plantlets are then planted out in disease-free greenhouses where they can grow into full, yet small plants with now disease-free potatoes about the size of large marbles. These potatoes are then harvested and stored at exactly 41 degrees for months until the growing season is ready for planting.
The inspected and "clean" seed potatoes are now planted into the fields in the spring. They are carefully managed all season and then at the end of the growing season the farmer will harvest G-1 potato seed. These G-1 potato seeds are very expensive and very precious, as they will form the genetics for the next 5-6 years of commercial growing and commercial food sales.
The G-1 potato seed is then grown out in the fields the next year for the eventual harvest of a G-2 crop that is still very valuable as a certified seed crop. There are regulations about how many years a potato can be used for seed before you are required by law to go back to a G-1, 2, or 3 seed, usually about 5-6 years, but only by being inspected and verified as disease free. Gardeners that like to buy potatoes from the store and then plant them are spreading potato tissue diseases in their soil! To acquire true seed potatoes you must go to a reputable source.
Multi-generational Zapata Seed owner/operators Brian Brownell and his daughter Anna Brownell in one of their certified disease free potato greenhouses.
Thanks for the tour Anna, and all your work and love of plants!
Photo by Christi Bode.
Order by May 1st for $45 OFF Summer 2018 CSA Fresh Box
Summer 2018 CSA Fresh Box details:
13 weeks (June 29th-September)
Diverse box of the freshest produce-harvest each week