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From Field Preparation to Planting – Insights at Hedge Rose Farm (OR, USA)

Hedge Rose Farm is located in the intermountain west, high desert area of Oregon. They're a small, primarily horse-powered market farm producing a variety of vegetables, fruits and grains for their quite isolated rural community. Their specialty is garlic and dry beans.

Picturesque view of the Hedge Rose Farm area in Oregon.

The following texts, pictures and videos provide a great insight into the ongoing potato year at Hedge Rose Farm:

Potato Varieties: This year, they are cultivating six varieties: Huckleberry Gold, Sangre, Caribou Russet, Baltic Rose, Amarosa, and Nicola.

Seed Potato Source: Huckleberry Gold, Amarosa, and Nicola seeds are from their own produce, while Sangre, Caribou Russet, and Baltic Rose are from a commercial producer.

Previous Experience: They have previously grown Huckleberry Gold, Amarosa, Nicola, and Caribou Russet. Sangre and Baltic Rose are new varieties for them this year.

Advantages of Specific Varieties: Huckleberry Gold and Nicola both have a lower glycemic index (which many customers look for), are prolific, and thrive in the climate at Hedge Rose Farm. Huckleberry Gold is selected from the common Yukon Gold and retains the Yukon's all-purpose qualities but also has purple skin. Caribou Russet is a good baker and serves market customers who are unfamiliar with the choice between different potato varieties as the ubiquitous russet potato that many know to ask for. Sangre is an early red potato, Amarosa is a gourmet fingerling variety, and Baltic Rose is a later red potato. Overall, Hedge Rose Farm tries to provide a range of colors and “best uses” for their market customers to choose from.

 Huckleberry Gold at their farmers market booth.

Caribou Russet.

Nicola's being dug in the field.

Field Plot: The plot is approximately ½ acre in size, mostly level, situated on the valley floor. There is a drive path running across the middle that separates the plot into two sides: On one side they plant varieties that they'll dig later for storage, on the other side they'll dig earlier as new potatoes and fresh-dug potatoes for the market. The larger field on this plot is about 22 open acres surrounded on three sides by trees, a stream, and an irrigation slough.

Soil Type: The soil is silty, sandy loam.

Previous Use: The soil was previously used for garlic cultivation in 2022-2023, followed by a fallow period.

Climate: The area is a high desert. Typically, only about 20 inches of precipitation falls annually, most of which historically falls as snow in the winter - the snowpack feeds the streams and irrigation canals used to irrigate the fields in the summer. Winter temperatures can reach as low as -15 degrees °F (-26 °C), but are usually around freezing during the day and around 20 °F/-6 °C at night. Summers can get very hot with temperatures exceeding 100 °F/37.7 °C in June, July and August. Summer temperatures average mid 90's °F/32 °C during the day and low 50's °F/10 °C at night. Hard frosts are common until May and return in September.

Field Preparation Implements: In fall 2023, plowing was done with a John Deere two-bottom plow. In spring 2023, compost was spread using a 1950's Massey Ferguson manure spreader, followed by discing with a John Deere 6' tandem disc. Old time wisdom is that a bad fall plowing is still better than a good spring plowing.

Power Source for Tillage Implements: A 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee tractor was used for tillage implements.

Planting Implements: The plot was planted using a 1927 McCormick Deering one-row potato planter drawn by a team of draft horses. The planter has a primary hopper with a wheel meter that drops the seed potato into a secondary hopper where picks grab the seed pieces and drop them onto the ground. A pair of closing discs covers the seed and leaves a nice hill. The implement is designed for one person to drive the team and run the mechanics. We had one person run the planter and one drive the team.

Power Source for Planting Implements: A team of draft horses: Hopi and Phil. Hopi is a six year old Shire/Suffolk cross that was raised and trained on the farm. Phil is a twenty year old Brabant that was raised and trained on a neighbouring farm.

Field Diary:

  • October 2023 (cloudy weather): Plowing using a Ford Golden Jubilee tractor and a John Deere two-bottom plow; the furrow depth was about 8 in.

  • April 17, 2024 (mostly sunny, 50 degrees F): Compost spreading with a Ford Golden Jubilee tractor and a Massey Ferguson manure spreader; about 1' depth of compost and organic matter.

  • The same day: Discing compost into the soil using a Ford Golden Jubilee tractor and a John Deere 6' tandem disc; one pass made just to smooth the surface, knock out any early weeds and lightly work in the compost.

  • April 18, 2024 (sunny and warm): Planting with a team of draft horses - Hopi and Phil - which pulled a 1927 McCormick Deering one-row potato planter.

Picture and video diary:

Cutting seed.

Spreading composted manure on the plowed plot.

Discing the plot to work the compost in.

Close up of the disc, originally a tractor drawn implement, converted to be able to pull with horses, connected back to a tractor again.

Seed potato waiting to go into the ground.

The prepped plot ready to be planted into.

Discussing the planting plan

Planting with the draft horses Hopi and Phil.

The action of the picks in the planter.


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