In the News: Institute-Supported Potato Study

As readers of the blog will know, the institute is supporting a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education–funded potato study. In short, we’re comparing the growing methods commonly used in gardens: potato towers, containers, sheet-and-straw mulch, straw mulch, and trench and hill (as a control).

Last week we had a Jim Dayton, a reporter from the Janesville Gazette, out to write a story on the project. I’ve excerpted some quotations below, but you can see the entire story here.

“Farmer using potatoes to promote environmentally-friendly agriculture”

Scott Johnson’s farming setup differs from most farmers in Rock County.

He doesn’t have a shiny John Deere tractor.

He doesn’t have expansive rows of corn or soybeans that roll toward the horizon.

Instead, he runs a homestead operation in his historic home’s backyard in Cooksville, an unincorporated hamlet between Evansville and Edgerton.

. . .

Using the grant, Johnson and nine other farmers through southern Wisconsin will test five potato-growing methods to see which is the most cost- and time-efficient.

Johnson wants his study to bring “scientific rigor” to local potato gardens.

“Nowadays, you can find information about growing anything online, which is great,” he said. “But very little of it is scientifically based. It’s almost all anecdotal.

“I’m hoping to bring some definitive data to show or suggest that one way of growing potatoes is more yield per input than another.”

. . .

He also operates a nonprofit out of his home—the Low Technology Institute—which offers a variety of do-it-yourself workshops. Johnson’s goal with his garden and nonprofit is to use self-sufficiency to reduce fossil fuel consumption within the food system.

Fossil fuels are part of the entire food supply chain. Fertilizers are made in factories powered by fossil fuels. Food is planted, harvested, processed and cooked using machinery that runs on fossil fuels, he said.

When fossil fuels run out, people must find a way to take care of themselves, he said.

“We really need to be looking into the deep future,” Johnson said.

“I think of the past 10,000 years since we started agriculture. We need to think long term what’s going to work.

“In 100 years, how will people still be growing enough food to feed themselves without fossil fuel inputs?”

Angela Major, a staff photographer, accompanied the reporter and took a few pictures of the study plots and grounds (all photos from Janesville Gazette):

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