IGL Farms: Certified
This article was first printed in the September - October 2002 issue of the Organic Broadcaster, published by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.
Large-scale organic potato production is no easy challenge, and large acreage producers are rare. So rare, that a recent field day at the Igl farm outside of Antigo, WI, brought a farmer from as far away as Manitoba, Canada to learn about organic potato production. Marvin Dick from Manitoba explained that the 11.5 hours (one way) in the truck also gave him a welcome respite from the hard work of their large commercial potato operation, and that he was really enjoying the scenery too. Marvin joined 10 other guests, including Angela Hemauer, Wisconsin's 55th Alice in Dairyland, for the farm tour on a hot July day this summer, where the challenges and opportunities of organic potato production were discussed.
The 200 acre Igl farm is in the middle of potato country northeast of Antigo, and the family has been growing potatoes there since the 1930's. Several generations of Igls have grown up on the family homestead, but Brian, returning to the farm from college, was the one who brought the ideas of modern day organics back with him. Starting with 20 certified acres in 1997, this year Brian and his dad Tom have planted 43 certified acres of potatoes (MOSA), with the remaining certified acreage in rotational crops and pasture.
Most of our discussion on this field day concentrates on how to grow organic potatoes, but Brian is also a master at marketing. Identifying sufficient markets is one of the major first steps in any farm production operation, especially those exploring specialty organic crops. Brian has worked hard to develop a steady market for the Igl organic potatoes in Madison food co-ops and other stores. Last year Brian negotiated a contract with the University of Wisconsin food service, allowing him to ship several hundred pounds of baking potatoes to campus cafeteria kitchens. The Igls are also working with the UW food service in 2002, and continue to explore new ways to grow and process potatoes that meet the needs of this large institutional market.
Brian identifies lack of a good delivery and supply mechanism as a major barrier in expanding his markets- there is high demand for his product, but cost effective transportation to those markets is an extremely limiting factor. The visitor group exchanges ideas about cooperative marketing systems, acknowledging the challenges of geography as a major hurdle to cost effective joint local marketing.
Refocusing on organic potato production, off to the fields we go.
Building soil health is the primary way to control pests and produce a quality organic product, and Brian and Tom use several methods to build their light Antigo Silt Loam soil. They work with Midwestern Bio-Ag, Service www.midwesternbioag.com, for nutrient consultation. Elements that Brian has identified as being key to soil health include: paying attention to soil biology, using rotations, chopping in oat straw and cutting and leaving clover and alfalfa to lay on the field and be reincorporated and using an organic starter in the soil from MidWestern Bio Ag.
Jody Padgham has been with MOSES since 2002. She is the organization's Financial Manager, the editor of the Organic Broadcaster newspaper and co-coordinator of the Organic University. Jody raises poultry and sheep organically on a 60-acre farm in west-central Wisconsin.Return to TOP