From garden crop to SAE project

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Nebraska schoolboy finds his own corner in the potato market.

A HIGH school freshman from Nebraska has found his own corner of the potato market after progressing from what started as a home-based project in his family's garden.

Carson Reiman used to help his dad Mark in the garden over the years, before he outgrew it and moved to a spot just north of the family’s grove to occupy the corner that Brian Scroggin’s irrigation pivot misses, a report in Nebraska Farmer reveals.

The larger plot was just under half an acre. He planted four potato varieties — Yukon Gold, Kennebec, Pontiac Red and Viking — on the plot south of Cozad, Nebraska and has marketed his potatoes through Fresh Seasons Market in Gothenburg, where he now delivers around 150 to 200 pounds each week. 

“This is something that I’ve dreamed of for years but the scariest part was planting. I didn’t know if this was going to work. But I knew if I really worked at it, something was going to happen,” Carson told the NF reporter.

Starting in the middle of October, he also took potato-loaded flatbed trailers into Gothenburg for consumers.

His first challenge came in sourcing 600 pounds of seed potatoes, the amount he needed to plant 15 rows, 566 feet in length. Once he acquired the seed, he had to cut 3-ounce slices for planting, which then needed to “harden”. He did this by spreading them outside on newspaper for a day and a half before transferring them to cardboard boxes for four days.

He said the cardboard helped to suck extra moisture out of the prepped potatoes and conceded that the use of  potato chalk could have sped up this process - something he might consider for the 2023 crop.

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He planted between April 20th and May 15th and plans to start a little earlier next year to prevent the harvest from coinciding with him going back to school and football practice.

While planting that many potatoes by hand has been daunting, it has also enabled him to perfect and improve his planting technique. It started out as about 2½ hours per row to plant, but he was able to cut that down to about 1½ hours per row.

He works with whatever equipment he can find, currently using a 1920s Champion Corp potato digger which he has adapted to work with a John Deere 950.

Of the four varieties that he plants, he says Kennebec has the most fragile skins, needing to be killed off for about two weeks before handling. “Reds are very good; you could pull them out of the ground right now and they would be pretty good. Yukon Golds are kind of in the middle,” he says.

Knowing when and how to kill off the plants is key. He uses Weed Eater to do this. He tries to use chemicals as little as possible because of the expense. Instead, he weeds himself and enlists the help of his five younger sisters.

He used a pre-emerge for weed pressure, and an insecticide to control Colorado potato beetles.

Source: Nebraska Farmer   Photo: Kevin Schulz

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