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Today’s Farm

Baar & Sons Potato Farm grows a wide variety of produce.

Michael Krabbenhoeft/

Popped up from the peat: More than just potatoes at local farm – Page 3 Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018

A supplement to Sauk Valley Media

Sauk Valley Media • September 11, 2018



Re-peat business Farm strikes Yukon gold in rich soil that’s been part of the family business for generations BY CODY CUTTER For Today’s Farm

MORRISON – Steve Baar’s grandparents didn’t have much when they emigrated to the United States from Holland in 1933. More than 85 years later, Baar and his wife, Gwen, do business with a variety of plants and vegetables using the same soil his family found along a bottom around Rock Creek near Fenton. Potatoes remain the specialty at Baar & Sons Potato Farm, 12712 Fenton Road. Though the large sign leading to the driveway reads “Baar & Sons Potato Farm,” there’s more than just potatoes popping up from their peat.

Baar & Sons Potato Farm Address: 12712 Fenton Road, Morrison Phone: 815-718-5020 or 815-778-4483 Hours: Walk-ins on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday Accepts: Cash, check, credit and debit cards Online: Facebook Different kinds of potatoes and a wide variety of vegetables can be found at the farm, owned by Steve’s parents and maintained by the third generation of Baars. “His grandfather came over on the boat through Ellis Island with a rake or a shovel,”


Gwen said. “They were broke, and started farming.” About 100 acres of property is set aside for corn, and 65 acres are for potatoes. “It’s potatoes, corn, beans, and 10 acres of garden,” Steve said. “It’s a pretty good-sized garden. It keeps us out of trouble.” The most common image of a potato is brown and oval-shaped, but there are more kinds of potatoes. The Baars raise red, white, Yukon gold and Russet potatoes – the latter the more-common brown-skinned variety – and raise more red potatoes than anything else. Yukon golds are a wetter and pastier potato with yellow, sweet flesh.

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Michael Krabbenhoeft/

Gwen Baar pulls up some carrots at Baar & Son’s Potato Farm.



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Potatoes and cabbage were the original specialties, but Steve’s mother, Neva, expanded the farm to include a wide variety of vegetables. Asparagus, cauliflower, green onions, leaf lettuce, okra, peas, radishes, spinach, and tomatoes are among the common vegetables grown in the garden near the barn. The vegetables are Gwen’s specialty, and she likes them hand-picked. 

In addition to the farm, Gwen has a table at a farmers market in the Quad Cities every Wednesday and Saturday. “I didn’t really want to do it,” recalled Gwen, who didn’t grow up on a farm. “We had a child and I needed another job, and I knew [Steve] wanted me to become a part of it. I ended up loving it.” FARM continued on 44

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• September 11, 2018

Michael Krabbenhoeft/

Gwen and Steve Baar grow a wide variety of produce on their farm near Fenton.

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TODAY’S FARM | Sauk Valley Media

Many stores like to carry the red potatoes because the others can turn green under fluorescent lights. They are the first potatoes to be grown and are usually ready by mid-August. “The red potatoes are a wetter potato, and are great for potato salad,” Gwen said. “The whites ones are good for baking, mashing and frying. They’re a drier potato and they’re flakier. They’re along the lines of a russet. We sell a lot of russets for multi-purpose potatoes, because they’re big and [people] like the size.” None of the potatoes have to be transported on road to the barn; rather, wagons traverse the many strips of dirt roads to collect the produce. Potatoes are dumped from wagons to a rear room of the barn and go through a potato grader. After passing through a dirt eliminator, the potatoes go up and through a sizer, where any that are less than 2 inches get weeded out. They then go through a washer and through dryer rolls, and a pair of workers grade them at the end of the line. Anything odd-shaped is a No. 2, according to Steve, and thrown into a different spot and bagged in 50-pound bags. The larger ones eventually get stacked onto 2,000to 2,200-pound totes. “If a potato sits dead on the ground, the skin toughens up,” Steve said. “We have a machine to make it a nice looking product.”

Sauk Valley Media • September 11, 2018





Among the vegetables difficult to find fresh at many stores are lima beans and kohlrabi; Baar & Sons raises and sells both. “People like it,” Gwen said of the kohlrabi. “It’s a member of the cabbage family. Most people eat it raw.” The secret to the Baars’ success lies in the soil – actually, it’s peat, which is light, spongy and can retain water better than regular soil. The area around the Baars’ farm was once part of a slough

of the Mississippi River thousands of years ago when the river bed wound a few miles east of the current channel. Peat farms surround the Baars’ property on three sides. Upon entering the Baars’ property, a long driveway leads to a raised, at-grade Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway crossing. The peat, and most of the farm, lies east of the tracks, and the Baars have noticed a difference in the freshness of their produce depending on the type of ground. “The peat grows good crops,” Steve said. “Wet years, not quite

so good; it can get back quick. It’s a high mineral soil. It’s good ground.” “Steve’s mom realized that the soil helped grow good root crops such as beets and carrots,” Gwen added, “Someone would say to her, ‘Can you raise my beans?’ and she started to do all these vegetables.” Baar & Sons Potato Farm is open from early May to late October, or until the produce runs out. The Baars have a staff of four employees when potatoes are not in season, and around 15 when they’re in season – most of whom are friends, neighbors, or other farmers.

Machinery keeps the potato farm operating efficiently, but some signs of the farm’s past can still be found on the property. The original barn sits to the left of the railroad crossing; half of it was razed recently. “It had one grader, and my husband’s grandmother would turn a crank on it all day so that it would roll to grade the potatoes,” Gwen said. “They were 100-pound bags, hand-sown with twine.” Times have changed, but the peat has not – and its kept Baar & Sons Potato Farm prospering and growing.

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Michael Krabbenhoeft/

Gwen Baar pulls up some red potatos on Baar & Sons Potato Farm.

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RIGHT: Kohlrabi is among the different types of produce grown at the farm.

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Michael Krabbenhoeft/

ABOVE: Potatos sit in a container inside one of the building on the farm.

Sauk Valley Media • September 11, 2018



Farmers can ID pests in a snap Smartphone app responds to pictures of weeds and diseases within seconds BY DANIEL GRANT

Farmers looking for information about a particular weed or disease outbreak can now obtain a prognosis nearly instantaneously. Xarvio, a trademark of BASF, recently launched a scouting app that allows farmers to take a picture of an issue in a field and receive feedback within seconds. So how does it work? Farmers, landowners or anyone else interested in scouting their fields can download the Scouting app at the Google Play or Apple App store onto a smart device. The user can then scout a field, take a picture of a crop issue and receive identification of the issue within seconds, depending on the cell or broadband service in a particular area. “With the Xarvio Scouting app, anyone with a smartphone can identify weed and disease threats on a variety of crops, such as corn and soybeans,” said David Gray, commercial and business development manager for Xarvio.

“It’s going to increase efficiency.” Experienced crop scouts can use the scouting tool to map where certain disease or weed issues exist in a field in less time. Meanwhile, an inexperienced crop scout can use the same technology to capture valuable scouting information he or she can share with an agronomist or farm manager, Gray noted. The Scouting app was launched in Europe in 2017 and is now operational in 90 countries with more than 58,000 users. It was introduced to the U.S. market recently at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. “It’s a machine learning app, so as more users have it and collect images, it will help the image-recognition algorithm,” Gray said. The app amassed a database of 150,000 weed and disease images and is on track to obtain another 100,000 across the U.S. this year. Research partners, such as the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University, contribute to the growing database.

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David Gray, commercial and business development manager for Xarvio, uses his cell phone to identify a photo of a weed in the background with a new Scouting app introduced to the U.S. market at the Farm Progress Show.



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• September 11, 2018

U.S. farmers could plant more corn and wheat in 2019 after growing a historic amount of soybeans this year. Farmers last spring responded to a corn/soybean ratio that favored beans by planting 89.6 million acres of the oilseed crop compared to 89.1 million acres of corn. It marked the first time the nation’s farmers planted more soybeans than corn since 1983. But a recent farmer survey conducted by Farm Futures, released at the Farm Progress Show, hints a reversal of the acreage shift may come in the year ahead. That survey estimates corn seedings in 2019 could total 90.8 million acres, up 1.7 million acres. Meanwhile, soybean growers plan to trim plantings by more than 2 million acres next spring, putting bean acres at 87.5 million nationwide. “We feel there will be more corn acres in Illinois [next year],” Mitch Heisler, marketing manager for Wyffels Hybrids, told FarmWeek at

estimates can change based on economics. But, either way, seed companies plan to have adequate supplies of top lines of all crops. “A lot of people are moving to spring fertilizer applications, so that leaves the option to make (acreage) decisions later in the season,” Heisler said. “We just started seed harvest and I have a good feeling we’ll be at or above target.” Amanda Rinehart, of Pioneer, expressed similar sentiments about the upcoming crop season. “It’s a little early to tell much (about acreage swings) in August,” Rinehart said. “The industry anticipates a very good seed harvest (this fall) and good availability (for 2019),” she added. “We’ll be sure to have seed available in a number of trait packages and maturity levels to meet our customers’ needs.”


TODAY’S FARM | Sauk Valley Media

Acres could shift back to corn, wheat in 2019

Sauk Valley Media • September 11, 2018



Storage tips to maintain hay quality Learn how to stack hay bales to avoid spoilage, other best practices to avoid loss

No matter what materials are used to bind forage, storage throughout summer and into fall and winter is key to maintain quality and minimize waste. Taylor Grussing, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension cow/calf field specialist, and Karla Hernandez, SDSU Extension forages field specialist, offer some research-based tips on forage storage. Outside storage loss factors are influenced by these factors: • Bale density: With dry hay at 10 to 20 percent moisture, the denser the bale, the less spoilage. Round bale density should be a minimum of 10 pounds of hay per cubic foot. • Field operations: Uniform swaths, sized to match the recommendations of the baler, help produce uniform and dense hay bales. The following stacking and storage methods can help reduce outside storage losses: • Stacking: Bales should be

removed from harvest areas as soon as possible to allow for uniform regrowth and potentially more cuttings, depending on the forage type. Round bales stacked alongside harvest areas should be orientated flat end to flat end, in north and south rows. Stacking east and west will cause deterioration on the north-facing surfaces if not used before next summer. Stacks should be placed in welldrained, nonshaded areas to prevent spoilage. The recommendation is to leave 3 feet between rows for adequate air flow and sun exposure for drying and to reduce excess moisture accumulation. • Reduce hay fire danger: If removing hay from the field and stacking in a hay yard, make sure bales are cool and dry to eliminate any potential heating and fire danger.  • Storage: The more protected the storage option, typically the greater the expense. However, when


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penciling out expenses, the cost of wasted hay isn’t cheap. Depending on how much hay is harvested and used each year, it may be cost-effective to improve hay storage methods. • Storage options to reduce losses: Take note of current stacking methods and see if changes can be made this year to decrease waste. Document current hay inven-

tory, accounting for some waste, and compare this to the winter hay needs of the cowherd. If additional forage needs to be sourced, be sure to buy quality hay confirmed through a nutrient analysis. Begin tracking yearly hay waste and compare the cost of wasted hay to the cost of improving longterm hay storage.

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