Hurley students get spudmobile tour, learn about potatoes


October 18, 2019

Kim E. Strom/Daily Globe

MELANIE ERSPAMER's 3rd grade class of 18 children listen as Wisconsin Spudmobile assistant Doug Foemmel gives a presentation Thursday on how potatoes get from the field to the fork. The Spudmobile is sponsored by the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.


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Hurley - The Wisconsin Spudmobile came to visit the Hurley School District Thursday, providing fun games and information about potatoes to area students.

Inside the spudmobile are eight different learning stations with educational components, said Dana Rady, director of promotion, communication and consumer education for the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.

The idea came from the promotions committee 10 years ago when they discussed ways of getting out and talking to the public about potatoes, according the Rady. In Feb. 2014, a recreational vehicle was purchased and the crew embarked on a journey of putting the exhibits inside, she said.

The RV is sponsored by the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, many members of whom volunteer their time at events. Events are free to the public and spudmobile assistant Doug Foemmel does about 130 presentations each year.

In the potato gene bank, there are 500 different types of wild potato seeds which can be stored for up to 30 years, said Foemmel. Growers try to keep as close to the original strain as possible. In South America, a potato was found to have a comfort rating of 15 out of 20 points. It also has appetite suppressant qualities, he said. The average potato has a comfort rating of four.

The children also learned that potatoes are 80% water and 20% solid matter. And it was the first vegetable grown in space.

"We're very fortunate to be able to do this," said Rady. "For the people we are having a conversation with, it allows them to experience being a farmer, without being a farmer," she said. "It's a huge promotional tool for us. We can sit down and explain and create a relationship."

Kids and parents alike become engaged, she said. "The vehicle truly tells the story of how potatoes get from the field to the family plate. It's important for the younger generation to understand how agriculture has an impact, especially in Wisconsin and we hone in on the fact that farmers grow the food we eat. Groceries don't just come from the store."

Potatoes have a lot of health benefits. They are a good source of vitamin C and have more potassium than bananas, said Rady. "We promote buying local. It's fresher, higher quality and has a lower carbon footprint."

There are seven different families of potatoes, according to Foemmel, and there are 110 varieties grown in Wisconsin. Several students said their families often made homemade french fries. Foemmel told them to try making them with purple potatoes.


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