From wheat to barley, to corn, North Dakota is covered in crops that help feed the nation, but there’s one specialty crop in the state that’s more popular than people may realize.
It may be a surprise to hear that in 2012, North Dakota ranked fourth in the country in potato production. The state produced 2.5 billion pounds that year.
“This area here is well known for having irrigation and the sandy soils that we need to create the product processors want,” says Karlsruhe, N.D., grower Robert Kasowski. “It’s very good product we have; it’s been very good years the last three years.”
Kasowski has been growing spuds for three years. He and a team of about six work 1,500 acres of potatoes. Like many farmers, he was feeling the time crunch from Mother Nature, but luckily potatoes are a hardy plant.
“The spring conditions were actually ideal for us. They weren’t too bad as far as the rain went. Yes, it took longer for the frost heaves to get out of the ground. We went around a few spots, but we were kind of getting pushed to the tail end of our planting season, where we want to get it in anyway,” says Kasowski.
Kasowki’s spud farm is about a week ahead of where they were at this time last year, and he’s the first to attribute that to his hardworking team.
“You have to be very good at what you do, you have to have a good team behind you,” says Kasowkski. “It’s not a one-man show. There are multiple people behind one person that make this work. It’s a specialty crop and you have to know you’re doing in order to grow it. It's not just some Joe Shmoe that can start it.”
After a successful three years, Kasowski has considered expanding his acreage, but despite the good years, it’s the daily challenges that keep him happy.
“One day you could be planting stuff, you could be tilling stuff, you could be working on stuff, you could be a firefighter putting out fires. The versatility is the main thing which makes it interesting for a lot of people,” he says.
North Dakota and Minnesota combined produce about 6 percent of the U.S. potato crop annually.