R.D. Offutt Brooten farm wraps 2022 growing season

With harvest completed, it’s nice to reflect upon another year of growing potatoes and the experiences we had along the way.

Becoming more and more typical, 2022 was an unusual weather year. Spring came in like a lion, greeting us with late season snow and wet conditions. For many farmers across our region, that meant planting was delayed and the growing season became shorter. Then, not long after spring planting, severe storms hit, affecting homes, buildings, equipment and emerging crops. Once those storms passed, very few measurable rainfalls were recorded the rest of the season.

Our team was kept busy ensuring our crop had enough water to grow and thrive. We took soil samples to measure moisture levels, then we used scheduling and precision technology to efficiently irrigate our crops, only applying as much water as was needed. In dry seasons like 2022, farmers in our area keep in close contact to make sure everyone has an adequate water supply.

For the first time ever, we hosted Potato Field Days, where we opened a select field for the public to dig potatoes while supplies lasted. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but hundreds of people came to the event, spending hours filling buckets and containers. It was heartwarming to see so many families and friends working together to ensure their neighbors and fellow community members had enough potatoes to last through the long winter months.

In October, we hosted more than 100 students for Minnewaska’s 5th Grade Ag Day. We shared information about potatoes, toured our storage facility and looked at harvesting equipment. Even though it probably wasn’t as exciting as a field trip may have been during planting or harvest season, it seemed like the kids still had fun and hopefully managed to learn a little. Days like this are crucial as we teach kids about the importance of agriculture and the careers they can consider when they get older.

Wrapping up the season, harvest went pretty well and we were able to put away the crop and close the storage doors in a timely manner. As always, planning for next season is already underway. We mapped out our 2023 potato fields (we only plant potatoes in a field about every five years) and prepared the ground for spring. This fall, we were able to plant more than 1,000 acres of cover crops. The oats and rye will re-energize the ground, reduce erosion and increase infiltration so fields stay saturated with winter precipitation. Then, next spring, we’ll work the cover crops into the soil, adding organic material back into the ground, leaving us with healthy fields to plant new seed.

As I reflect on this growing season, I’m proud of the hard work of our team to grow a crop that will feed thousands of people. Through weather and other challenges, we learn something new every year. And as I drive through the beautiful Bonanza Valley thinking about how to bring those lessons into next season, I know there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Chris Strom

R.D. Offutt Brooten Farm Manager