Vendor Profile: Local Potato Farming Expert Interview
We’re loving this time of year as all the gourds, root vegetables, and other seasonal bounty start to surface and show up on our shelves! It is bittersweet as the summer produce season is officially over, but you can get excited about the spicy, fall flavors and products that are staples of fall. On the cover of our bi-weekly fresh sales flyer, we are featuring Atlas Farm in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. They focus on potato farming and potatoes are one of those vegetables that may be lesser known in know-how in personal and community gardens so we reached out to Atlas Farm to conduct an expert interview. Check out our Facebook page for inspirational recipes to infuse fall into your daily life!
What are the benefits of buying local potatoes (produce)?
Buying local produce has benefits on all scales — personal, local, and global. Rather than focusing on uniformity and transportability, farmers who grow on a small scale for local distribution can select vegetable varieties with superior flavor. Produce that's grown and sold locally is also much more likely to be fresh, which means that it will keep better and taste better once it's brought home from the co-op. Buying local produce strengthens local economies and supports the farmers and farmworkers who make their livelihoods here in Western Massachusetts. Choosing local produce means knowing where your food is coming from — having access to the unique stories of local farmers, as well as information about the farm's labor conditions and growing practices. Last but not least important, local produce has a smaller carbon footprint than non-local produce.
How can customers tell if the potatoes (produce) they’re buying is local (aside from any signage at the store)?
Aside from signage and packaging, local potatoes look the same as non-local potatoes. So, customers who are dedicated to "eating local" benefit from shopping where local produce is regularly and featured — like at River Valley Co-op! The surest way to tell that produce is local is to buy directly from farmers. A farmer's markets and farm stores — like the Atlas Farm Store in South Deerfield — customers can talk with growers face-to-face and learn which crops are in season locally.
How do you know when to harvest/pick your potatoes (produce) so they look fresh and vibrant at the market?
Potatoes grow during the spring and summer, are harvested in the fall, and store well through the winter months. For each variety, we use the known days to maturity to inform our harvest dates. We also check the crop regularly in the late summer and early fall to see how the potatoes are sizing up. Once the tubers reach full size, we mow the plants in preparation for harvest and let the potatoes sit in the ground for a couple of weeks. This sets their skins so they can be harvested undamaged and stored for many weeks in our packinghouse or storage facility. (Potatoes dug earlier in the season can be sold fresh, as "new potatoes" with thin and fragile skins.) Once we harvest, wash, and pack our potatoes, we take care to keep them in cool, dry, and dark conditions until they are sold.
How can your potato (produce) vendor strengthen the rural economy in Western Massachusetts?
Like other small local businesses, Atlas Farm strengthens the rural economy by keeping our customers' dollars within the community. We are dedicated to providing our staff and farm crew with competitive wages and opportunities for education and advancement. As well as selling our own farm's produce, the Atlas Farm Store provides a local marketplace for other growers and producers. We are proud to work in close collaboration with neighboring organic farms: Riverland Farm, Old Friends Farm, Kitchen Garden Farm, and Queen's Greens, among others.
Atlas Farm not only sells and distributes potatoes but they have other products such as kale. Atlas Farm grows certified organic produce on some of the most fertile vegetable growing soil on the East Coast. They are dedicated to producing food in a way that will maintain biological diversity, support natural ecosystems, and keep the land productive for future generations. Their potatoes are on sale now!