ELK CREEK, W.Va. – It is harvest season for former Harley Davidson dealership owners turned potato farmers, Mike and Libby Adkins.
The Adkins’ are taking part in the Agricultural Enhancement Program Potato Demonstration Project. According to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA), “The potato initiative in W.Va. has taken a big step forward with the establishment of a three year pilot project in the western and southwestern areas of the state. The WVDA entered into an agreement with the West Virginia Conservation Agency (WVCA) and the Guyan and Western Conservation Districts, designed specifically to expand potato production in the Mountain State.”
The program is available for nine counties in W.Va. The counties include Boone, Cabell, Jackson, Logan, Lincoln, Mason, Mingo Putnam and Wayne.
On Tuesday, the Williamson Daily News visited the Adkins’ potato farm and had the opportunity to be an active participant in the Potato Project Program. During a discussion with Libby Adkins on the back of potato harvesting farm machinery provided by the WVDA as part of the program, Libby explained the program while her husband, Mike operated the machinery. “This is our first year doing the potato project. It has been a learning experience and we are still learning,” Libby stated. “It really is a good program. They send someone out to test your soil, and provide you with a planner, seed potatoes, machinery and equipment,” Libby continued.
The WVDA website further explains the program. The website states, “In cooperation with the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service and the WVCA the conservation districts have identified program participants, conducted soil sampling, provided the seed and equipment and have developed conservation planting plans for each participant. The districts will also work with the farmer to plant a cover crop on the land after harvest to prevent erosion and improve the organic content in the soil. Farmers can plant a minimum of one to five acres. To further assist farmers, equipment has been purchased by the WVDA and will be made available to those producers through the conservation districts, for free. The only thing the farmer needs to provide is the tractor, fuel, labor, and 50 percent of the cost of the cover program. In addition to funding the pilot program, the WVDA will work with extension personnel from West Virginia University and West Virginia State University to provide horticulture assistance to participating farmers. We will also furnish packing and marketing at harvest.”
The Guyan Conservation District officer, Helen Stanley, explained that the potatoes harvested on the Adkins’ property will be sent to suppliers and other food distribution centers. Stanley also discussed the possibility of supplying local companies that produce potato products such as Mr. Bee Potato Chips, which has a facility in Parkersburg, W.Va.
Gregory Reed, the President of the West Virginia Potato Chip Company which produces Mr. Bee Potato Chips, explained that the company has been involved in discussions with the WVDA but had not finalized any plans. “We had met with the WVDA and discussed ways in which we can source potatoes here in West Virginia a couple of weeks ago. I would say that it’s a little premature for us to comment on at this time since we’ve not finalized any plans, but we are indeed looking to make West Virginia potatoes part of what we do,” Reed stated.
For more information on the potato project, visit http://www.agriculture.wv.gov. Information on the Potato Demonstration Project can be found under the Promotional Programs link.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)