Potato Grower

June 2018

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14 POTATO GROWER | JUNE 2018 For the past few years, a small plot in one of Bender's potato fields has been dedicated to testing for the International Chip Variety Trials. This involves planting, growing and harvesting 10 to 14 varieties from seed sent from Pennsylvania State University under the same conditions as the rest of the farm's chip potatoes, treating those varieties as the Benders would treat their own crop. Though there is little immediate financial incentive for the farm to be involved in the trial program, Bender believes that this kind of work has inherent value. He holds hope, for examples, that the trial program will ultimately find a replacement for Atlantic, a variety popular with chip processors but that is susceptible in the field to hollow heart and heat necrosis. "It's more of an industry issue than a personal one," he says. "We just want to do whatever we can to help. We're trying to be good stewards. We've been given a lot, and we're trying to be generous with what we have." As it does in so many other regions, the climate in south-central Pennsylvania poses challenges to producing quality potatoes. The Bender family is nothing if not adaptable—they pride themselves on that particular trait, and it has enabled the farm to be a success for well over a century. The fickle weather of the Mid-Atlantic is a hurdle the family has cleared year after year for generations. A challenge that has proven more difficult to deal with is finding enough local land to make the operation everything they feel it ought to be. "We don't have a ton of land around that we can grow potatoes on," says Bender. "We would like to grow more acres, but we have a hard time finding it around here sometimes." Searching for solutions and as-yet-unknown efficiencies has long been a driving internal force for the Benders. A big part of that for David and Bryan has been in-depth involvement in local, state and national trade organizations. David has served on the Pennsylvania potato research board and currently sits on the board of the Pennsylvania Co-Operative Potato Growers. Bryan is a Potatoes USA board member, where he is a member of the research committee. "We're a smaller farm, and being involved helps us understand what's going on in the potato industry," says Bryan. "It's easy to be isolated, to stay in your little world and not have your eyes opened to the bigger picture. Our involvement gives a lot of motivation and vision of the possibilities. The Benders harvest about 140 acres of chipping and table-stock potatoes each year. A deciding factor for Bryan Bender moving back to the family farm was the opportunity for his own children to grow up on the farm. Pictured here is Bender's daughter, Lottie, enjoying her time among the family's signature crop. Bryan Bender's son Hart watches intently as a trailer is loaded with Bender potatoes to be made into chips.

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