Bryan Searle is a potato farmer outside of Shelly, Idaho. He took the time to reflect on farming and illusive 'perfect' season with editor Jake Putnam:
What are the biggest assets that make Idaho potatoes great?
Soil is number one, the soil is perfect. You got certain areas…to grow the russet Burbank you have to have the right soil to get the Burbank. The volcanic soil is a piece of the pie, but its also the weather with it. We don’t have the heat that Western Idaho gets, or Washington gets. The get the tonnage, but to grow the Russet Burbank you have to have a little sand, some heavy river soil, mixed with the volcanic element.
What about the temps?
We cool off at night, it’s a factor, the spud shuts down when it’s too hot. The way Western Idaho, Oregon and Washington gets around that is that they plant the norkotah, we have some norkotahs and they do well, but the russet Burbank that people like to eat in the restaurant, if you’re growing they don’t like to get much above 95-degrees
Last year we had a cool, wet summer and we thought we’re not going to have much of a crop, but we had a great crop, what gives?
I think a good supply of water can’t be overlooked. It’s a huge factor, next to having good dirt to grow in you have to have a good water supply, you need reservoirs. We can supply water when we want it, where we want it. We can adjust the water all summer and next to the soil, water is a huge factor.
From year to year each crop is different?
From Hailstorms to disease, to white mold, to insect problems to late blight, we are always going to have issues to deal with. First and foremost we deal with Mother Nature. She always has something out there for us to deal with. If the season was a book there are many plot twists and turns to deal with and most people don’t get that, it’s hard to bring a crop in.
When I want 80 degrees, its 50 and when I want 50 its 80. Like a good book, there are many highs and lows throughout a season. Many of the factors I have no control over. I can apply fertilizer and chemicals to control weeds, but that can be washed out by a single afternoon thundershower. So, we’ve had amazing crops, but to say perfect? We have never achieved perfect, we deal with too many factors.
Never a perfect season?
There are seasons when you think it’s going pretty good, with ideal conditions, and then it freezes on September 1st. In this game there’s never been a perfect year, not a single year when all the stars are aligned. There never has been, and I don’t think there ever will be because we are dealing with Mother Nature and she’s holding all the cards.