Q&A with Coles Potato Farmer Robert Cerchiaro

Monday, July 27, 2020

We had a plethora of potato queries from the children at Annandale Public School in New South Wales. We enlisted the help of Robert Cerchiaro from Red Gem in West Gippsland, who grows potatoes for our Community Partner Coles, to help solve the potato puzzle.

Did you know the word potato comes from the Spanish word patata, that there are thousands of different potato varieties and that they are a staple crop for many different cultures around the world. Whether you like them mashed, fried, baked, roasted, made into gnocchi, or part of a stew or curry, we can all agree that potatoes are one delicious and versatile tuber!

Like to learn how long potatoes take to grow, or how thirsty they are? Read on!

Jacob – 10, What vegetables do you grow?
Red Gem has been growing potatoes and onions since 1954. You can say we’ve seen a few spuds in the past 65 years! We grow white, red, brushed and washed potatoes.

Vuk – 8, In winter how do you keep your crop warm?
Believe it or not, we actually prefer them to stay cold, they also stay fresher for longer that way. The only time we warm them up is when they jump into a pot of boiling water or in the oven.

Flo – 10, How long does it take to plant the plant, wait for it to grow then harvest?
From the moment we plant our seeds, it takes about 120 days, almost 4 months, for the spuds to grow and be ready to harvest. During the day the green leaves of the plant take in sun light, rain and all the nutrients to feed the potatoes. Like growing kids, potatoes need to grow at night while they sleep.

Holly – 9, How much water do you need to water your plants?
A potato drinks about 200 litres of water per kilo during the 4 months of growing. Like you after having fun in the playground, potatoes like staying hydrated and drink about 1.5 litres a day.

Elijah, Where do you get seeds from?
Our seeds are called tubers and we grow them in a plant nursery, they look like mini potatoes. Every seed grows an average of 12 potatoes tucked underground. Our seeds go through “Potato school” and we grow three generations of seeds. Grade 1, 2 and 3. Four years later the seeds are ready to graduate and be planted to become a potato sold in the supermarket, then on to your plate for you to enjoy.

Zara – 8, How do you get rid of pests?
We are part of nature, growing vegetables in the field means we see animals like kangaroos, deer and wombats and we ask them nicely to move away. For harmful insects we use a spray similar to what you use at home.

Bayley – 9, Do you use a tractor to harvest the plants?

Yes, a big one! When the potatoes have finished growing, a tractor pulls a harvester through the field to dig the spuds up out of the ground. We leave the dirt behind and place the potatoes in big wooden bins on the back of the trailer. The potatoes take a short trip from the paddock to the packing shed so we can clean them and wash them. Some of our potatoes have a nice shower with water and some just have their dirt brushed off. All of them are fresh, healthy, yummy and are really good for you.

Take a virtual trip to Red Gem farm, in this video here. Thanks for your time farmer Robert.

Remember you can find some of the Foundation’s yummy recipes like Potato & Rosemary Pizza and Silverbeet & Potato Torte in our KGP at home video collection.


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