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USDA War On Potatoes Over?

November 16th, 2011
Mr. Happy Spud is proud to announce we've won the USDA's war on Potatoes

This is GREAT news! Thanks to everybody for their support.

It looks like the war on potatoes is over.  Well, perhaps the word war is a bit dramatic, so let’s just say the USDA’s expensive, nonsensical, continued effort to limit the use of potatoes in school cafeterias has come to an end.

As you may recall, we brought this up a year ago in a blog post “The USDA To Limit Potatoes For Kids?“.  Obviously, being potato growers and Klamath Basin farmers, we had a dog in this fight.  While our chipping potatoes haven’t ended up in school cafeterias as far as we know, they have been used for making dehydrated and frozen potato products.  Add to the fact other Klamath Basin potato farmers grow spuds that end up in the fresh market and at a variety of processing plants, this action would have had a negative impact on our local economy.  Despite the impact on potato farmers in the Klamath Basin and across the United States, the USDA pushed hard in the final stages of the great potato phase out.

What exactly did the USDA want?   In an email we received from the National Potato Council (NPC), they indicated the USDA was pushing to limit potatoes, corn, green beans and lima beans to one cup a week.  And no, not one cup of each a week – a total of one cup of any combination of those four vegetables.  When you consider how healthy potatoes are, it didn’t seem to make sense, especially at a time when children are getting fewer vegetables in their diet.  ”Yeah, but they’re only frying potatoes in schools anyways,” you may be thinking.  So, with the concern of children’s health and increasing obesity, it only made sense to ban potatoes since they were only being fried, right?

Wrong.

According to the NPC, nine out of every ten potatoes served in schools are not fried.  They’re baked, boiled, mashed, put in soup – but not fried.  Add to it the fact that only 11% of schools even have a fryer, even the french fries aren’t fried at most schools!  So, if Mrs. Obama wanted to indulge in one of her favorite guilty pleasures, she only needed to visit her daughters’ school cafeteria where that serving of fries would only be 110 calories a serving.  Much less guilt, but still a pleasure!

Furthermore, with so many schools feeling budget crunches, this mandate would have added more burden to cash-strapped schools.  In the five years it would have taken to implement these changes, it would have cost schools up to $6.8 billion (yes, $6,800,000,000).  At a time when teachers are already striking for better pay and school districts are trying to find ways to do more with less just meet the minimum educational requirements, this action from the Department of Ag seemed even more wrong-headed.  It not only severely limited a healthy food option for our kids, it took more money from their education.  Plus, many food services managers didn’t think it would do anything to improve the health of students or their diets.

But, that was in the past.  Thanks to people speaking out and getting in touch with their representatives in Congress, this issue has more or less been put to rest.  According to a recent email from the NPC, a bipartisan effort from Senators Susan Collins (R-DE) and Mark Udall (D-CO) received unanimous consent from the Senators.  Spurred on by over 800 letters from citizens passed to their legislators through PotatosInSchools.com over a two week period, the message to the Department of Ag was loud and clear – keep potatoes in our schools!

Now, with the Senate voting unanimously on Collins and Udall’s amendment and the American public raising its voice in support of potatoes, hopefully the USDA will heed the will of the people and our elected officials and keep potatoes on school menus.  And you can bet, if they don’t you’ll read about it here!  To celebrate this momentous event, we suggest you have a nice baked potato for dinner.  Remember to watch the amount of butter and cheese you put on it and don’t forget the veggies!

To everyone at the NPC and PotatoesInSchools.com, and to the folks who took the time to have their voice heard in support of keeping school lunches nutritious as well as Senators Collins and Udall, thank you very much.  Good work and stay vigilant!

chipping potatoes, potato facts, potato news

Future Farmers Digging Potatoes?

October 6th, 2011
Kids from Sage Community School in the rows of Gold Dust's chipping potato field

Sage Community School students getting dirty in a potato field

Before you get the wrong idea after looking at these pictures, we’re not breaking any child labor laws.  Actually, what you see is a visit from the Sage Community School!

Last week, Gold Dust hosted the Sage Community School charter school as a part of an ag tour put together by PROSPER and Trout Unlimited.  The tour gave the kids of Sage Community School a chance to see a working potato farm and a mint farm during harvest.  After visiting our farm and potato processing plant (yep, we’re in shipping season too!) and the Seus Family’s farm, the students went to the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge to see farming and wetlands existing in harmony.

While at Gold Dust, Lexi Crawford gave the students a tour of our packing shed while it was running at full tilt.  From the sorting tables to chipping potatoes being loaded for shipping, they saw what it takes to get potatoes to our customers.  While on the processing plant campus, Lexi also showed them how potatoes are loaded into our potato cellars for storage.  Though we love to look at the shed and show folks our cellars, we’re pretty sure the best part of the visit  to Gold Dust for the kids is when Lexi took them out to the fields so they could dig their own potatoes.  Between the big smiles and the full bags of chipping potatoes, it looks like they had a pretty good time!

On behalf of Lexi and Gold Dust, we’d like to thank Sage Community School for making the trip from Chiloquin down to Malin to visit us.  We would also like to this opportunity to thank Steve Kandra and Belinda Scalas of PROSPER and Mike Beagle of Trout Unlimited for organizing the farm tour and including us. It was fun and we’d love to do it again!

Want to see more pictures of the school’s visit? Then you’re in luck! Belinda Scalas has given us permission to share the PDF of a slide show she put together of Sage Community School’s field trip. Click on Sage Charter Fall Harvest Tour 2011, wait for it load in your browswer (this may take a minute if you have a slower connection) and check out all the fun photos of their trip to Gold Dust, Seus Farms and the Tule Lake refuge. Thanks, Belinda!

 

 

chipping potatoes, community, farm, gold dust, potato news

The USDA To Limit Potatoes For Kids?

November 11th, 2010
A picture of a very sad potato.

The USDA hate me? But I'm full of vitamins and minerals! Just ask the USDA!

Sometimes the things that come out of Washington DC sound a little crazy and make a person scratch their head.  Last month, the Feds announced they want to limit serving potatoes to children and keep them from school lunches.   This news, coupled with the fact the WIC program prohibits buying spuds with government aid, seem to qualify for both as head scratchers.

Seriously – potatoes are so unhealthy for people the Women Infants and Children program won’t allow them, and now the same is going for public schools? Really?

Obviously, being chipping potato growers, we’re biased.   We like potatoes and feel they’re a healthy option to have on a dinner plate, assuming you simply don’t load it down with bacon, cheese, sour cream and salt (which sounds terribly delicious right now!).  With that in mind, let’s turn to an un-biased source for nutritional information – Self.com.

Though potato chips and french fries are popular, we focused on another popular way people eat potatoes: baked, with the skin on and not salted.  Looking at Self’s potato nutrition guide, this large, baked potato, offers the following daily nutritional values (based on a 2,000 calorie diet):

  • 48% of Vitamin C
  • 47% of potassium
  • 4% of calcium
  • 18% of iron
  • 7 grams (26%) of dietary fiber

And if you eat that same potato raw, the amount of Vitamin C (121%) and dietary fiber (32%) you get shoots through the roof!  The above represents a quick snap-shot of the various vitamins and minerals you get from potatoes.

You may have noticed the amount of Vitamin C and potassium in a potato is pretty impressive.  So, how does a spud stack up against tomatoes and oranges (two well-known sources of Vitamin C) and bananas (regarded for its contribution of potassium to a diet)?  Let’s find out.

First, oranges.  A large, orange gives you the following recommended daily dietary allowances:

  • 163% of Vitamin C (wow!)
  • 10% of potassium
  • 7% of calcium
  • 1% iron
  • 4 grams (18%) of dietary fiber.

Next, a large tomato’s daily values:

  • 39% of Vitamin C
  • 12% of potassium
  • 2% of calcium
  • 3% of iron
  • 2 grams (9%) of dietary fiber

Now, how about the daily values of a banana?

  • 20% of Vitamin C
  • 14% of potassium
  • 1% of calcium
  • 2% of iron
  • 4 grams (14%) of dietary fiber

To be fair, a potato does have quite a few more calories than the fruit it’s been compared to, as well as quite a few more carbohydrates.  However, overall, a baked potato looks like a healthy option to have on your plate.  And if you cover that spud with broccoli, chicken and tiny bit of alfredo sauce, you have a delicious, well-balanced dinner.

Should you replace oranges, bananas and tomatoes with potatoes?  Of course not.  You should strive to eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.  However, when taking a look at the above stats, a potato may not be as unhealthy as the Federal government may be making them out to be.  Certainly healthy enough, and delicious enough, to get important nutrients into the diets of children and their mothers.

By the way, if you look closely at the bottom of the pages on Self.com we took this information from, they got their information from the USDA itself. And if you’re curious about the nutritional values of potato chips, be sure to read our post about how healthy potato chips are!

chipping potatoes, potato customers, potato facts, potato news

Walker Bros Win Environmental Stewardship Award!

April 15th, 2010
Sandhill Crane In Stubble Field

Grain stubble provides protection against wind erosion.

We are very proud to announce that the National Potato Council has honored Walker Brothers with a 2010 Environmental Stewardship Award.  While it’s always nice to be recognized, to receive recognition from the National Potato Council for our work on providing cleaner water and wildlife habitat as well as for preventing soil erosion feels extra good.

Part of the requirement to win the award was to maintain a high crop yield while implementing practices that protect the environment and wildlife.  With both our chipping potato crops and wheat crops, we were able to do just that.  Aside from the tried and true practice of crop rotation, when planting we used no till drills for the wheat which minimized erosion during planting.  As for the potatoes, GPS was used to plant the rows closer together, which helped minimize pesticide use and erosion.  After planting the spuds, a few days later the fields were irrigated in order to reduce wind erosion.

For pest management, Walker Brothers used a couple of techniques other than better planting methods.  One was to plant 42 foot wide stretches of rye and grass around the fields to attract good insects as well as to encourage bad insects to leave the crops alone.  Not only did this help with bugs, it also provided habitat for birds.

Speaking of birds, we participated in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Flood Fallow program.  We voluntarily flooded fields, which provided habitat for migratory waterfowl that summer in the Klamath Basin.  This gave the birds a place to hang out as well helped clean the water and returned important nutrients back to the soil.  This also gave human visitors to the leases something to look during the Walking the Wetlands tours.

After implementing the above methods and other techniques and technology, Walker Brothers still harvested over 60,000 metric tons of chipping potatoes.  So, at the end of the day, we not only had an impressive yield but we also cut down on the amount of fertilizer and pesticides we used and helped make our little part of the world a little better (and cleaner!).

We would like to thank John and the farm crew for all of their hard work in implementing these practices.  We would also like to thank the National Potato Council for this award and we look forward to officially receiving it in Vegas in January at the 2011 Annual Meeting!

For more details about the award, be sure to read our press release about receiving the National Potato Council 2010 Environmental Stewardship Award.

awards & recognition, chipping potatoes, community, farm, grain, potato harvest, potato news, wheat

Eat Potatoes, Be Happy

March 26th, 2010
Happy Chipping Potatoes

Feeling Blue? Try Potatoes!

In this week’s PotatoPro Newsletter, the author, Paul van Eijck, wrote about the use of the phrase “comfort food” in relation to potato chips and french fries and marketing them.  According to this article, in the very near future we may see the phrase being applied to potato chips, french fries and almost anything else potato related.

In the article was an uplifting bit of information from across the pond released by a United Kingdom Web site dedicated to potatoes known as LoveChips.co.uk.  PotatoPro referenced a study put out by LoveChips that indicated potato chips (or french fries to us Americans!) make people happy.

In the study, British researchers showed folks a video that was sure to put them in a foul mood.  After watching the clip, they were given “potato chips” (or “fries” if you will) and through the power of potato-goodness, the subjects saw a 10% increase in calmness and a 13% increase in cheerfulness.  Furthermore, Dr. Mike Green, the mastermind of the study, found an eight percent decrease in anxiety after munching on fries.

“There are a number of possible nutritional and psychological mechanisms which could explain the mood changes after eating chips,” explains Dr. Green.  “It may be down to the biological effects of nutritional components on brain chemistry or simply a pleasurable oro-stimulatory sensation, triggered by the way chips taste.”

Whether it’s physiological, psychological or just magical, this researcher proved something we’ve always believed at Gold Dust: potatoes make people happy.  So, if you’re feeling blue or just need a little pick-me-up, grab a bag of potato chips or head to In-N-Out burger for fresh-cut french fries.  After all, it’s good for your mental health!

chipping potatoes, potato chips, potato news