A farm in Idaho is pioneering a new way to grow the state's most famous crop
A farm in Idaho is pioneering a new way to grow the state's most famous crop: potatoes. The pioneering method is being demonstrated on Ladd Wahlen's fourth-generation farm and will involve using regenerative practices to grow potatoes. Wahlen, who researched regenerative practices in college, says using these methods for potatoes is uncharted territory. But he says it will ultimately benefit the land.
"I want my soil to be healthy and I want it to be sustainable for the generations to come because it's a family farm, family enterprise, and we want it to continue and we want to be able to have good, healthy soil that's capable of producing good, healthy products," said Wahlen.
Wahlen and his wife also own a potato chip company called Roots Potato Chips. He says more consumers are looking for products that were made sustainably and provide benefits to the environment.
Brad Johnson is the agriculture strategy manager with The Nature Conservancy in Idaho, which is partnering with Wahlen on the demonstration farm. He says the farm will use techniques like reduced tillage, cover crops and pollinator plant species to reduce the use of insecticides. They're also testing out plant companion species to reduce the use of fertilizers. He says these new methods will reduce the cost of growing potatoes.
"We just now see that there is probably a better way to do it that can reduce the needed inputs that farmers are putting onto the crop. So economically, it will be beneficial for them in the long run," said Johnson.
Johnson adds many potato companies have promised regenerative agriculture to their consumers. He says the demonstration farm will help develop trusted advisors on the ground who understand how to implement these practices.
Wahlen says some long-time potato farmers are skeptical of these new practices.
"As we try these things and we're able to show the data and the metrics of how they're working and how they're beneficial, then I think hopefully there will be less hesitation and more people will jump in and get involved," said Wahlen.