The Path of the Potato: From Small Plantlets to Plentiful Potatoes

Three ounces. The weight of a deck of cards, three slices of bread, or three standard envelopes. At R.D. Offutt Farms, three ounces is the weight of a potato seed piece that is ready to be planted.

To get that perfectly sized potato seed, it takes years of planning. Growing our own seed is a multi-year process that ensures a safe and stable food supply, just one of the ways we’ve been responsibly growing potatoes for 60 years. And once the seed is ready, it’s time to plant and care for our crop. The process is long, but it is worth it – check out the steps we follow:

Step One: Growing our own seed

  • The first year of seed growth takes place in a greenhouse, as tissue culture plantlets.
  • From there, quarter-sized potato seeds are planted at our seed farm in Atkinson, Nebraska and grown for two more seasons - Field Generation 1 and 2.
  • The fourth year, seed is planted at our Staples, Minnesota farm. This is the final planting before the seed is harvested, certified, and ready for commercial planting the following season.

Step Two: Preparing the seed for planting

  • As potato seed arrives at our farms, it is stored in sheds.
  • Some seed pieces are called “single drop” – typically around three ounces, which means we don't have to cut the seed. Sometimes, seed potatoes exceed three ounces, so we operate a cutting line to get the perfect size seed piece.
  • After the potato seed is cut, we must wait for the wound to heal before planting.

Step Three: Planting

  • Conditions need to be just right for planting, so our potatoes can flourish in the fields. Our team watches for favorable conditions, and then planting begins. Typically, we like ground temperatures to be around 50 degrees. If the conditions aren't right, we risk having potatoes decay in the soil or experience late emergence.
  • Potato variety and yield goals dictate row spacing in the field. As planters are running, our team checks planting depth and spacing to make sure we are on track.

After planting, our team will spend the next six months carefully tending to the crops’ needs. Our goal is to raise high-quality potatoes, using sustainable farming practices that protect the environment. Keep following along as we detail what we encounter throughout the growing season – we love farming and sharing our adventures!