Pass the Potato Chips
Waushara County Farm Bureau member Lynn Dickman works hard to provide a staple for backyard cookouts. Not the brats, hamburgers or steaks, but rather the potato chips.
Dickman grew up milking cows on her parents’ farm before pursuing a degree in dairy science from UW-Madison.
“I never thought I would be working with potatoes,” joked Dickman while talking about her journey to Heartland Farms as a research agronomist.
She began working for the Central Wisconsin potato farm in 2010 after graduating with her bachelor’s degree. Two short years later, she began pursuing her master’s degree in horticulture at UW-Madison while also balancing her daily duties at Heartland Farms. In the spring of 2016, she completed her master’s degree and returned to the farm full-time, working to stay on the cutting edge of new potato varieties, growing technology and field practices.
Much of Dickman’s spring involves hand planting approximately 5.5 miles of potato research plots. She uses these plots to evaluate ways in which the company can more efficiently grow and store potatoes to minimize inputs such as water and fertilizer, while maximizing the amount of potatoes grown. One of the biggest challenges she is faced with is to find varieties of potatoes along with handling and storage practices that reduce bruising. Bruised potatoes have a greater potential to develop bacterial or fungal infections that can compromise an entire bin of potatoes and ultimately decrease the sustainability and efficiency of the farm.
As a researcher, Dickman identifies ways to better care for natural resources so the company can stay viable for future generations.
During the winter, when Dickman is not planting or harvesting potatoes she stays busy testing the fry quality of the potatoes. Since the potatoes from Heartland Farms are used to make potato chips, they must be low in sugar to be fried into light colored chips and free from discoloration or other imperfections. This time of year also allows Dickman to study the data collected from the previous growing season’s trials.
When she is not walking potato fields or analyzing data, Dickman is likely to be found training for an upcoming run. She has been an avid runner for 10 years and enjoys biking, hiking and playing volleyball. As a previous member of the UW- Madison marching band, she also plays French horn in a city band and volunteers her time with various community groups including the Farm Bureau’s Promotion and Education Committee.
Story by Sarah Marketon. Original version appeared in the June/July 2017 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.