A Cooperative Harvest

Denman potato co-op effort reaping the benefits of community teamwork.

Coincidentally, the birth year of SPUDS was also the UN Year of the Potato. This event has its own website with articles on potato history (farmers in the Andes have grown potatoes for 8,000 years and cultivated more than 1,000 varieties), facts on potato nutrition (a medium size potato eaten with its skin provides nearly half the daily adult requirement of vitamin C) and information about the potato’s popularity as a global food (global potato output has doubled in the past 15 years and is expected to double again by 2020).

The UN website makes a strong case that the potato can provide a partial solution to ease the strain of food price inflation and global food insecurity.

Clearly, the SPUDdites are right in step with UN priorities, but their potato project has a distinctly local flavor, with the liberal addition of ingredients such as humor and fun.

Their web presence has a YouTube link to a performance of “the potato song” (it goes like this: ‘potato potato potato, potato potato potato…’), as well as photos of potatoes dressed up as farmers (this won a prize at the Denman Fall Faire) and the Raging Grannies, in big flowery hats, entertaining the workers at the first planting.

“This is a way to make growing your own food fun and social,” says Bjorge. “These benefits showed up in the potato co-op work parties. You could catch up with neighbors because you had to spend hours and hours shoveling beside them. Maybe it was someone you’d never really talked to before.”

Timmons agrees. “It’s very much about community, relationships, and sharing our knowledge.”

In the spirit of sharing knowledge, the co-op is developing an information package to give to other groups interested in forming a potato co-op.

The group’s enthusiasm for supporting other emerging potato co-ops makes perfect sense—after all, this project is all about growing!