Humble potatoes are food waste reduction “Rock Stars”. These starchy veggies store like a dream in cool, dark places, and leftover cooked potatoes can be repurposed in a variety of dishes from breakfast hashes to soups to burritos. Just ask farmer Gregg Halverson.
Gregg is the president and chairman of Black Gold Farms. HIs farm, which has been in the Halverson family since 1928, grows and markets potatoes in 11 states, stretching from Florida to North Dakota. Black Gold Farms specializes in growing a variety of spuds including sweet potatoes, chip and fry processing potatoes as well as tablestock potatoes for the retail and food service trade. If you’ve eaten a bag of Lay’s brand potato chips, you’ve likely tasted the handiwork of Black Gold Farms.
With the family operation spanning multiple generations and many states, it should come as no surprise that sustainabilityis a key focus contributing to the company’s success. It all starts with people, community and transparency.
“A farmer should be the ultimate example of sustainability,” Gregg said. “Sustainability does not happen like a light switch, which may be turned on or off. It’s how you treat the land and each other. I have eight granddaughters, and I want to make the land, my business and our world a better place so, they have something to work with for the long term.”
A few of the ways Black Gold Farms digs deeper for sustainability include harnessing next-generation technology that’s more fuel efficient, soil testing for precise fertilizer applications and field rotations to protect the land while maintaining growth and quality. They also use practices to reduce soil compaction and manage water and wind erosion. Out of the field, their corporate headquarters is LEED Gold certified, exemplifying their commitment to energy efficiency for the future.
Reducing global food waste is another element of being environmentally friendly that starts on the farm. Gregg and his family strive to grow the best quality crops possible and do their best to try to find a way for every potato to find a home in the marketplace. They use crop protection products, like herbicides and insecticides, to eliminate harmful weeds and bugs before they can damage the end crop. This helps every piece of produce they grow to make its way from their fields to your plate.
No matter how careful farmers are about applying crop protection products, there’s always a small portion of produce that won’t be fit for retail. Flawed produce can be used for other purposes, such as animal feed. So-called “ugly” potatoes can even be added to soups or other processed foods for a boost of nutrition.
“We do try to collaborate with our customers to sell every ounce of product we have,” Gregg explained. “We try to find a place in the food chain that will accept literally everything we produce.”
They also strategically select land throughout the U.S. in order to provide locally grown products. Growing potatoes closer to markets eliminates “food miles” or the need to haul them long distances. This helps products reach people sooner, enhancing freshness and naturally extending shelf life to reduce the amount of waste.
As for households reducing food waste, Gregg recommends keeping an eye on portion size and not cooking more than your family needs. Potatoes, he said, are the ultimate portion control food: ready for you in whatever size you need, from tiny fingerlings, to large red bakers, to frozen tater tots.
Getting hungry for some spuds? Check out this Chili Loaded Baked Potato Recipe for a filling and satisfying weeknight dinner based on ingredients right in your pantry and freezer.
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