Advancing Sustainable Potato Production in the Northwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1997: $35,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $7,071.00
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Karen Murphy
The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, oats, potatoes, rapeseed, sugarbeets, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: beans, sweet corn


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, risk management
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, cultural control, genetic resistance, prevention, trap crops
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, social networks


    Over 100 farmers and at least another 1,000 farmers and farm community members were educated about the benefits of sustainable agriculture practices in potato production in this SARE project. Through a combination of educational activities -- including farm tours, farmer meetings, newsletters, presentations, and outreach to the press -- farmers and farm communities in primarily Idaho but also other parts of the Northwest learned about the benefits of compost and green manures for building healthy soils and breaking up weed, pest, and disease cycles in potato cropping systems.

    This project generated stories in such agriculture papers such as the Capital Press, Magic Valley Ag Weekly, Intermountain Farm and Ranch, Farm Times, Acres, and the Idaho Farmer-Stockman. The Capital Press and the Idaho Farmer- Stockman are regional papers encompassing multiple states, Acres is a national alternative farming publication and the other papers are local agricultural papers. The combined circulation of the local agricultural papers alone is probably close to 20,000-30,000.

    An exciting new publication profiling farmers that use sustainable production practices in potatoes was developed out of this project. The Farmer Exchange is a short, easy-to-read newsletter for farmers and others interested in learning what their neighbor farmers are doing. With the help of another SARE project, the first issue was circulated to over 2,500 people across the Northwest. One farmer called us up after reading it and said it was the best thing he'd ever read. The newsletter is just one part of a larger effort to expand communication between farmers about the practices they are trying on their farms.

    As a result of this project, between 10 and 15 farmers in south central and eastern Idaho are exploring the use of green manures or other alternative practices on their farms. The project also formed a network of farmers in eastern Idaho that will begin meeting in the fall of 1999 to share information and ideas about sustainable production practices and marketing. In addition, the Shoshone Bannock Tribes (probably the largest potato ground owner in Idaho, leasing out some 140,000 acres for the production of potatoes and wheat) is developing a long-term research and demonstration project on 154 acres to explore the use of green manures and different rotation crops to reduce groundwater contamination and chemical inputs on reservation lease land. This project could have significant long term impacts on potato production in eastern Idaho.

    NOTE: This project was specifically an educational outreach project -- not a research project -- that was intended to take existing research information and inform farmers and the public about it. Consequently some portions of the outline are duplicative. To avoid this we have combined the report sections entitled "Specific Results" and "Dissemination of Findings."

    Project objectives:

    1. Through workshops, farm tours, educational materials, and the media, the project will reach 100 potato farmers with direct, hands-on learning experiences about sustainable potato production, and at least another 1,000 farmers and other interested individuals will read or hear about these practices through other avenues.

    2. The project will build one network of potato farmers.

    3. Through farm tours and educational materials the project will reach 30 agricultural lenders and educate them about the benefits of sustainable agriculture.

    4. The project will work with Kettle Foods, a major Northwest food processor, to build a model processor support program for their conventional and organic potato farmers.

    5. The project will actively disseminate existing information, production manuals, and other appropriate information on sustainable practices.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.