It starts with good soil. We use vitamin rich goat and horse poop that has been aged to perfection in our front yard, redneck style (meaning we make no attempt to hide the hill of shit). We till that beautiful crap into our planting field prior to putting anything in the ground. Next we dig a fairly deep trench, while reserving the extra dirt created. Potato pieces are placed in the trench, with sprouted “eyes” up; top with a layer of dirt and wait.
Once the plants get to be about 12 inches high, the first of several “hilling’s” must be done. Potatoes grow off of the bottom plant leaves into the side mounds created from covering the bottom part of the plants. This is one of the reasons that consuming only organic potatoes is important: they grow close to the surface so any chemicals put into the soil can penetrate the “fruit”. Most mega-farms douse their planting fields with Round Up to kill any weeds prior to planting…..yuck.
What follows between when the plants emerge and harvest time, is hilling in scheduled intervals and closely monitoring the crop for bugs. Again, most conventional famers treat their emerging plants with herbicides, pesticides and a bunch of other “cides” that are nasty to consume. If grown organically, twice a day inspections are necessary because the biggest threat, potato beetles, can wipe out a crop within 24 hours.
This is when it gets gross. We go out twice a day, everyday, to squish those nasty beetles; at times, killing 50 or more in one go through. At first I couldn’t do it because it made me gag, literally. If I just don’t think about it, and do it quickly, I make it through each killing session. Beetle squishing lasts about six long weeks and dyes my fingertips yellowish-orange……I know, really sexy, but the end result is totally worth it.
When the time finally arrives, harvesting potatoes is like going to the beach to play in the sand when you were a child. Steve unearths the row with a hoe-type implement attached to the tractor while I get on my hands and knees to dig. I get oddly excited at how many potatoes are produced by each plant so I scream the numbers like I won the lottery or something. At the end of the day, as we drag crates of potatoes to the barn to cure, I am filthy and giddy all at once.
So any of y’all who are lucky enough to get your hands on some Happy Earth Farm potatoes in the coming weeks, take a moment to think about how I managed my gag reflex and dealt with dyed fingers to make the magic happen……