Growing French Fries

By Karin Clemens Costa on April 26, 2021

Ethical Food and Agriculture

While out on a walk with my dog on an early evening about five years ago, I was passing by our fields of produce and admiring the beauty of the vegetable plants. I find the details and the beauty in nature impressing me more and more as I get older. In any job you work hard to provide for your family, be successful in the eyes of your community, and hope in doing so you enjoy what you are doing day in and day out. 

I know now that my father, Bill, and my husband’s father, Pete, found their vocation. They both were lifelong farmers. They farmed not because their fathers had farmed or just to put food on the table for their families but because of a true love of the land, faith in what it could produce year after year, and for the joy in seeing what their labor provided to their communities. 

I often think of my father and father-in-law and how their passions for farming have influenced me and my husband, Ron. Seeing the hope each spring brought to them, the way they nurtured seeds, the commitment to see through the months of growth, and then harvest, were naturally passed to us, their children. 

Both men had already passed when on that day I was taking my walk in our produce field. 

It was then that the idea of writing “Growing French Fries” came to me. How could I create a story to share with children and teach them how their food is grown and how it gets to their table? Potatoes disguised as french fries became a plausible storyline. And perhaps in that story, I could create an interest in growing their own food. Or at the very least educate children about farmers and the important job they do feeding our nation. 

Today’s farmer is a bit different from my father and father-in-law’s generation. Today, there is more government regulation, food safety certifications, marketing (Instagram and Facebook posts are performed regularly in my work week) and a higher demand of diversification to keep up with trends and turn a profit. 

These modern day differences can sometimes take away from the daily joy and feelings of fulfillment from our harvests. Yet, Ron and I, deliberately take stock of our accomplishments on those long picking days and see the beauty of what can be produced with our natural resources, experience, dedication, sweat and tears. It does take faith to see it through. 

My hope for future generations of farmers is to be able to hold onto the spirit of being the keepers of the land and the agricultural engineers of turning seeds into food. Times are constantly changing; science is developing new ways to farm indoors, without soil, and with alternate light sources. While that may be the future, I know right now that how Ron and I are farming is the best way we know how. 

I also know tomatoes taste best grown in the soil and outside in the sunshine…and french fries are best eaten with a side of ketchup made from those vine ripened tomatoes! 

Karin Clemens Costa is the author of the new children’s book titled “Growing French Fries”. Karin and her husband, Ron, are produce farmers in Grant, MN. Costa Produce Farm and Greenhouse is a retail, wholesale, CSA and greenhouse operation. “Growing French Fries” is now available for purchase at Amazon.

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