Published Jul 3, 2013

Digging Potatoes

By Teresa Opheim

New potatoes from Grade A Gardens near Johnston

A year ago last November, our board president, Tim Landgraf, had a devastating house fire on their farm near Kanawha. The house, as he told me on the phone, “was toast”, so the PFI staff decided to go up and help them harvest while they dealt with the enormous hassles of documenting damage and filing insurance claims.

All this time, I thought we were coming to the rescue of a farm family in need. Until last weekend when I read this in Joan Dye Gussow’s new book Growing, Older:

“I allow special friends to help me dig potatoes, and they almost always fall into the same addictive grubbing that afflicts me as I plunge in my hands to find the last tuber in a bed. It’s like a child’s dream … of walking along and suddenly spotting a nickel on the side of the road (a nickel was a lot in the Great Depression). As you stop to pick it up, you see another coin under it, and then another, until you have a handful of change. Potatoes are like that. They seem like a gift…”

It turns out Tim and Jan were doing US a favor by assigning us the potato harvest! As my family chomped our first Iowa potatoes this week (from PFI members Grade A Gardens), I pondered what less desirable tasks Tim and Jan left for themselves that fine fall day.