Advancing Sustainable Potato Production in the Northwest

1998 Annual Report for SW98-031

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1998: $42,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Karen Murphy
The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides

Advancing Sustainable Potato Production in the Northwest



1) Through workshops, farm tours, educational materials, and the media, the project will reach 100 potato growers with direct hands-on learning experiences about sustainable potato production and at least another 1,000 potato growers and other interested individuals will read or hear about these practices through other avenues.
2) The project will continue to support the grower network developed in the first year of this project and build one additional network of growers whose purpose will be to regularly meet and share information on sustainable potato production practices.
3) Through farm tours and educational materials the project will reach 30 agricultural lenders and educate them about the economic and environmental benefits of sustainable potato production practices.
4) The project will actively disseminate existing information, production manuals and other appropriate information on sustainable practices developed by other organizations or government agencies.
5) The project will assist growers in developing and implementing on-farm research projects utilizing sustainable production practices.


Over 100 farmers and at least another 1,000 farmers and farm community members were educated about the benefits of sustainable agriculture practices in this SARE project. Through a combination of educational activities including farm tours, workshops, 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 such things as compost and green manures for building healthy soils and breaking up weed, pest and disease cycles in potato cropping systems. Over 200 people attended our educational events. We participated in key agricultural events where we were able to directly reach over 400 additional people mostly farmers with information about sustainable agriculture.

This project generated stories in such agricultural papers as The Capital Press and the Magic Valley Ag Weekly. The combined circulation of these agricultural papers alone is probably close to 10,000. In addition, television stations ran stories on several events and, on our farm tour alone, 19 different radio stations aired our Public Service Announcements. An NCAP staff person will be writing a regular column on sustainable agriculture for the Magic Valley Ag. Weekly, a major agricultural paper in south central Idaho.

As a result of these educational events two groups of farmers will be forming farmer networks to share information, ideas, and strategies about marketing and switching to more sustainable production practices. In addition, farmers will be following up on a discussion (started at one of our conferences) with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture about funneling more marketing resources into local and regional marketing efforts. We believe that the educational activities, networks and marketing efforts will have long-term impacts on the adoption of sustainable agriculture in the Northwest.

Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers

The responses that we have received from growers has been extraordinary. At our November conference three growers got up and praised our work we were not expecting that! Probably 90% of the evaluations from all our educational events have ranked the content as either good or excellent. Not only have we had good feedback but attendance at all these events has been strong.

We have also had intense discussions between growers questioning each other about their farming practices. While these discussions were tense at times, they continued and some of these growers are the ones who want to participate in networks and explore new practices for their farms. We see this as a very positive step because the dialogue has remained open.

Some selected comments from participants on their evaluation forms include:
· Better interaction than on most farm tours.
· Do it three times a year!
· It was outstandingly valuable and time worthwhile.
· Very informative – just do more of it.
· Top notch people – too bad we can’t have a longer time with them.
· Continue what’s been started here.

Some comments from some of our cooperators:
· This project would not have happened if we had not all worked together. NCAP brought a lot of ideas we wouldn’t have thought about it’s a good mix with our technical expertise. Everybody is stretching in a new direction.
· There have been a lot of wedges driven between people in agriculture and environmentalists. We’ve overcome that wedge. We share a lot of the same basic concerns about pesticides and their impact on the livelihood, lives and health of farmers.

Producer Involvement

We have 11-12 farmers involved in our project on a regular basis. Farmers have been involved in planning our farm tour and conference, reviewing The Farmer Exchange and being profiled for it, and participating as speakers in our educational events. In addition, they work with us to identify and strategize around follow-up activities to our events. We have also involved farmers in reviewing crop rotation scenarios for the reservation demonstration project. We think that initially seven to ten people will be involved in the network in Eastern Idaho and about the same number of people will be involved in the marketing network in Southcentral Idaho.

This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 2000 reporting cycle.


Karen Murphy

NW Coal. For Alternatives to Pesticides
OR 97440