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Toxic Taters group highlights organic farming

Toxic Taters supporters toured an organic farm Sept. 13. (Submitted photo)

About 20 local people attended a field day at Larry Heitkamp’s Yellow Rose Organic farm to learn about organic potato production, cover cropping and soil health Saturday, Sept. 13 at an event hosted by the Toxic Taters Coalition – a group of “rural residents in northern Minnesota who live near R.D. Offutt Company’s potato fields.”

The tour took place at Larry Heitkamp’s organic operation outside of Sebeka.

There, Heitkamp raises grass fed beef, free range eggs, and five varieties of potatoes.

Kent Solberg, livestock and grazing specialist with the Sustainable Farming Association, began the day by leading an interactive tour of the cover cropping system in use at the farm.

After Solberg’s presentation, Heitkamp led the group through his potato field and showed participants the five varieties of potatoes he currently grows for market (he is also growing a number of additional organic varieties for a research project that seeks to reinvigorate older potato varieties).

Heitkamp explained to participants that he uses a diversity of management practices to deal with weeds, insect pests, and diseases, including tools for early season weed control, diverse potato varieties, organic pesticides to be used at key moments, and scouting practices to keep a close eye on the field.

Participants in the field day included farmers, small business owners, individuals who live near RDO potato fields and other supporters of the Toxic Taters campaign.

In the past, the Toxic Taters group has called on RDO and McDonald’s (a major purchaser of RDO potatoes) to “Achieve a measurable and significant decrease in use of health-harming pesticides, release information on the chemicals they apply to their crops, fund an independent human and ecological health study on the regions impacted by potato production and work with a third party certifier to adopt environmentally sound, sustainable agriculture practices.”