Typically in early October, when temperatures drop and snow starts to appear in the forecast, the Land Trust staff is invited down to Barbara Farm to help with the annual potato harvest. For someone who is mainly in the office, working on the farm was a nice change of pace and a great opportunity to see the land that we protect in action.
Located on the Little Wood River, just outside Shoshone, Barbara Farm holds two conservation easements with the Land Trust—protecting over 500 acres of working farmland, wildlife habitat, rangeland, and open space. Fred and Judy Brossy have been running the organic farm for years and only recently handed over operations to their son, Cooper.
On a gray Monday morning, Keri York, our director of conservation, and I loaded up the Jeep with work gloves and plenty of empty bags for spuds that wouldn’t make the cut. With dark skies and rain to our backs, we drove south out of the Valley and were soon greeted by sun and brutal winds in Shoshone.
With the dust swirling, we greeted Fred, Judy, Cooper, and other volunteers, neighbors, and friends who all showed up to provide helping hands.
Once the empty semi-trucks showed up, it was all hands on deck. For almost four hours we stood on the machinery, a conveyor belt separating us, watching hundreds of potatoes pass by.
As the potatoes bounced past us, we picked out dirt, rocks, stems, and potatoes with green spots – signifying disease. It’s harder than you think to distinguish between a potato and a rock!
After passing through six pairs of hands, the pristine potatoes made their way into the bed of the semi, ready to be transported to the plant. Once we’d filled three semi-trucks, we were done for the day. I walked away from the farm with a coat of dirt on my face and two large bags of potatoes.
But when I got home, even after looking at and handling thousands of potatoes, I couldn’t kick the urge to eat some. So, I dug into my enormous bag of organic Idaho spuds and fried some up. The potatoes, freshly harvested, tasted a little sweeter than normal.
It’s probably because I now know and appreciate all that the Brossys do to protect and maintain the land that they live on and care for. Thanks to the Brossys and their work to protect their farmland, we’ll be eating golden potatoes and local organic produce for years to come!
By Josie Brownell