Pretty Potato

Finland is proud of the food they produce, and they should be. This country boasts high quality soils, an abundance of clean water and passionate people who farm with quality in mind.

The newest research on the health benefitsrecent salmonella outbreaks, school lunch programs,  ballot measures regarding GMO, and food bans consistently grace the news in the USA and abroad. The quality of the food we consume is important to us. Finland has similar concerns, what are they doing about it?   They are working to make food safer and healthier. The research at the Potato Institute on MTT Agrifood Research Finland improves crop production, yields, pest and disease prevention in order to provide for a better potato for Finland’s table. MTT employs 750 people at 15 locations across Finland, and collaborates with the Potato Institute at the Ylistro location near Seinäjoki, Finland. Both organizations have sustainability, smart resource investment, environmental impacts and food safety and quality as a goal in their research.

The potato harvester

Our visit to this research farm yielded a harvest of knowledge about Finland’s efforts to improve agriculture methods. The 1845 potato blight was an initial call for crop health research, but other disease and pest problems keep new and better methods to provide food production, quality and safety in demand.

Rocks, plant stems and leaves are removed during the harvesting/sorting process.

Many varieties are tested at this facility.

The sorted potatoes travel along to the machines holding bin.

We harvested the potatoes, evaluated crop health and washed the potatoes in preparation for more studies this day. It is interesting what things are lost in translation. I asked our guide and lead scientist why she liked doing this job and I could not communicate my question clearly. Her passion for improving this production was quite clear to me as I we walked row after row of potato, inspecting, evaluating and  learning from each test, leaf and potato in the field. I didn’t need to hear her say in in English or Finnish, her job makes a positive impact in feeding  Finland.

A scientist observes her experiment.

Many methods were tested the day we helped the Potato Research Institute including pesticide use, organic methods, varietal variances and fertilization to name a few.

Inspecting everything from the leaves to the potato.

Studying the disease and prevention treatments in organic and conventional methods.

This fungal disease (not an instant mashed potato) is one of the concerns this research wants to prevent, ensuring the best food comes to our tables.

The side by side comparison shows very clearly the delicacy of our food supply, and the need to study pathogens, varieties, practices and methodology.

A healthy plant.

A plant that did not receive the treatment being tested.

Crop failure


Placard describing the test.

This study in Finland reminds me more and more how disconnected and often misinformed the public can be about the food consumed every day. Though the news shares with us issues to listen to, many feel a sudden emotional reaction in response to such news. It is something else to feel the actual unearthing of our food, fresh from the soil. Farmers care about their land and harvest, it is their livelihood. Finland like the USA imports and exports certain items. Many value a Finnish grown product, some think many items should be imported rather than grown in Finland.

Most importantly from this post I hope we can all think about the history, hard work, research and policy that is behind that pretty potato we place on our plates.


4 thoughts on “Pretty Potato

  1. Hi Val,

    I’m admiring your pictures of Finland. You have captured the natural beauty of the vegetation and expansive sky in an extraordinary light and perspective. You and Melissa have unique gifts for girls your age; yours in photography and Melissa’s as a talented writer. But of course I am biased being her mom. You two should consider collaborating on a book one day! I’m thrilled you are both experiencing Finland and other cultures at this time in your life. Your posts are just as enjoyable as they are informative. Hope we have the chance to meet one day.

    Take care,
    Melissa’s #1 Fan

    • Paula,
      Thank you for looking at my blog. I am very lucky that Melissa and I are on this adventure together. I could not do it with out her here. I hope all is well back in California.

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