Suffolk children grow their own potatoes

Suffolk Agricultural Association played host to 180 Suffolk schoolchildren this week for the first stage of the National Potato Council’s ‘Grow Your Own Potatoes’ competition.

The initiative aims to teach young people how potatoes are grown and harvested through an interactive challenge to see who can grow the heaviest potatoes. It has also been designed to help children learn more about healthy eating and nutrition, giving them an insight into the role of the potato as part of a balanced diet.

The pupils visited Trinity Park in Ipswich where they spent two hours with four local farmers undertaking a series of workshops.

Farmer John Taylor talked to the pupils about the many potato-based products found in supermarkets, while farmer Jim Wayman taught the youngsters about the planting process for farmers on a larger scale.

The highlight for many, however, was the hands-on planting process, led by Helen Micklesen and Lizzy Modder, who gave the children guidance in how they would need to look after their potatoes back in the classroom over the coming weeks.

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Hannah Woods from Suffolk Agricultural Association said: “Last year we held the ‘Grow your own Potatoes’ Challenge at Trinity Park for the first time and we were commended by the Potato Council for how well it went. It was thoroughly enjoyed by all school children that took part as well as by our team and by the volunteer farmers, so we are using the same format this year and it has been opened up to Suffolk schools rather than just Ipswich ones. We are looking forward to seeing how the potatoes have grown when the pupils return for harvesting day.”

The official Harvesting Day takes place on June 19 at Trinity Park. Farmers John Taylor and Helen Micklesen will first harvest their own potatoes to demonstrate how it’s done and then children will harvest theirs, with the group growing the heaviest potatoes winning a trip to a farm.

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Once the children have harvested their potatoes, Steve Carroll, the chef from Trinity Park, will speak to them about which foods come from potatoes and their nutritional value. The children then make their own potato salad to eat for their lunch.

This year, 17,000 schools have entered the National Competition and were sent a potato growing pack which includes potato seeds that they plant, water and harvest.

During the process they each log the weights of their potatoes on the Potato council (PC) website.

Suffolk Agricultural Association became involved in 2011 when the potato council started to work with Agricultural Associations across the country with the aim of encouraging them to work closely with local schools that enter the national competition.

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