Timeline of the Colorado and San
Luis Valley Potato Industry
Courtesy of the Monte Vista Historical Society, Sargent
Stanl...
The potato is thought to have
been first domesticated by
the Andeans of South
America as early as 500 B.C.
The Inca grew t...
The European and North
American adoption of the
potato set the template for
modern agriculture.
By the 1800’s, there were
...
In 1875 farmers began growing
potatoes in the San Luis Valley.
The potato is a principle crop for
Colorado. The San Luis V...
In the 1880’s, a number of
farmers in the Del Norte and
Saguache area produced
potatoes to be hauled to the
mining city of...
The first reported rail shipment of potatoes from the Valley was by R.C.
Nesbit of Del Norte in 1882. Nesbit was probably ...
In 1906, Barkley’s Prolific was renamed “Brown Beauty” by
Edward Newton of Monte Vista,
CO because of its smoothness and
b...
L.M. Winsor, first Valley county
agent, reports that in the spring
of 1913 various farmers were
cooperating in tests on tu...
CPAC
rtesy of
oto cou
Ph

Although warehouses often
were located on growers’ own
property, the Colorado Potato
Warehousing...
In the mid-1920s, the Colorado Potato Growers’ Exchange was a statewide
cooperative that began in the San Luis Valley and ...
Ringrot had been brought to the
San Luis Valley on some Katahdin
seed that was sent by the USDA
for testing. In the mid-19...
The Colorado Potato
Administrative Committee was
founded in 1941 with the key
goal of organizing the then
more than 175 Co...
In the 1960s, refrigerated semitrailers began taking 97 percent
of the San Luis Valley potato
crop to its ever-expanding
m...
The Raincat company that
brought center pivot systems
to the U.S. went through
several ownership changes,
eventually landi...
The modern center pivot
sprinkler, used by almost all
growers in the San Luis Valley,
allows the growers to control
the ir...
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Colorado Potato History Board

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A timeline of potato history in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Historic potato photos and information on how potatoes made there way into the region.

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Colorado Potato History Board

  1. 1. Timeline of the Colorado and San Luis Valley Potato Industry Courtesy of the Monte Vista Historical Society, Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”, and the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee
  2. 2. The potato is thought to have been first domesticated by the Andeans of South America as early as 500 B.C. The Inca grew thousands of varieties of potatoes and held the potato in high esteem. When or where the potato was introduced into the continental United States is not known. Photo courtesy of the Monte Vista Historical Society Potatoes were introduced from Ireland into Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1719 by a group of Presbyterian Irish. This is the first introduction into New England and possibly into the United States. Photo courtesy of Monte Vista Historical Society
  3. 3. The European and North American adoption of the potato set the template for modern agriculture. By the 1800’s, there were diverse varieties of potatoes and they were being planted to provide a widespread, inexpensive food source. Courtesy of Virginia Simmons-Valley Courier Newspaper Acceptance of potatoes as food was very slow in North America. However, total production had reached 1,603,730 cwt in 1840 when potatoes were first mentioned in the U.S. Census. Photo courtesy of Monte Vista Historical Society
  4. 4. In 1875 farmers began growing potatoes in the San Luis Valley. The potato is a principle crop for Colorado. The San Luis Valley is a primary producer for Colorado and the Nation. The history of potato varieties, compiled from various sources, opens with the Travis Rocky Mountain Seedling grown near Saguache, CO in 1875 and continued to 1976 when the newest variety being grown was named the “Centennial”. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. Transportation of potatoes has changed much since the late 1800s when the potatoes were hauled by wagon to mining camps. Photo courtesy of Monte Vista Historical Society
  5. 5. In the 1880’s, a number of farmers in the Del Norte and Saguache area produced potatoes to be hauled to the mining city of Leadville by wagon. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. Hauling potatoes by wagonloads sufficed locally, but the Denver Rio Grande and, soon, the San Luis Southern Railroad made it possible to transport larger quantities of potatoes and other produce from the Valley. In the early 1880s, railroads serviced the area, sending shipments of potatoes to farther markets. Photo cou rtesy of CP AC Courtesy of Virginia Simmons-Valley Courier Newspaper C tesy of CPA Photo cour
  6. 6. The first reported rail shipment of potatoes from the Valley was by R.C. Nesbit of Del Norte in 1882. Nesbit was probably the first farmer to grow and ship potatoes in quantity. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. Publicity which stimulated interest in potato growing in the Valley came in 1889 when R.A. Chisholm won a national contest by securing the highest yield of potatoes on a measured acre-847 ½ bushel. Because of this, neighbors called the potato the “Barkley’s Prolific”. This name came from Pteter Barkley who gave Chisholm the seed, which originated from Canada, used for the prize-winning acre. This acre was located on a farm north of Del Norte, CO. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”.
  7. 7. In 1906, Barkley’s Prolific was renamed “Brown Beauty” by Edward Newton of Monte Vista, CO because of its smoothness and brown skin color. One of the last to raise these in the Valley was Falk Brothers of Del Norte, CO. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. Growing of a potato known as the “Red McClure” was reported in newspapers for a period between the mid-1910’s through mid1920’s. Varieties for which prizes were awarded in the 1916 potato show included the Red McClure, along with the Pearl, Brown Beauty and Russet. In 1929, H. Entz of Bowen won third in the potato yield contest with 526 bushels per acre of Red McClures. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. Photo courtesy of Monte Vista Historical Society Photo courtesy of CPAC
  8. 8. L.M. Winsor, first Valley county agent, reports that in the spring of 1913 various farmers were cooperating in tests on tuber unit selection and cut versus whole seed. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. Photo courtesy of Monte Vista Historical Society Loading and unloading produce offered many jobs, and by the 1920s trucking was getting a foothold and later would become a major player. Courtesy of Virginia Simmons-Valley Courier Newspaper Courtesy of CPAC
  9. 9. CPAC rtesy of oto cou Ph Although warehouses often were located on growers’ own property, the Colorado Potato Warehousing Corporation provided facilities that were larger. They were organized in the early 1920s and they owned or leased warehouses in Del Norte, Center, Monte Vista, Hooper, La Jara and elsewhere in the state. Courtesy of Alvin T. Seinel’s “History of Agriculture in Colorado”. Courtes y of CPAC During this same time period, Colorado saw the maturation of the potato industry, which at this time already had a place in the nation’s commodities markets. Courtesy of Virginia Simmons-Valley Courier Newspaper
  10. 10. In the mid-1920s, the Colorado Potato Growers’ Exchange was a statewide cooperative that began in the San Luis Valley and had more than 2,000 members statewide. The purpose of this organization was to buy and distribute potatoes under contract. Two prominent names in the organization were officers J.P. McKelvey of La Jara and M. I. Chenoweth of Del Norte. Courtesy of Virginia Simmons-Valley Courier Newspaper Seed selection was a factor in enabling Ike Schutte to obtain a world’s record yield of potatoes on a measured acre—1,145.17 bushels. This record was set in 1929 on an acre planted at Schutte’s farm east of Soldiers Home Lake. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”.
  11. 11. Ringrot had been brought to the San Luis Valley on some Katahdin seed that was sent by the USDA for testing. In the mid-1930’s, ringrot had become such a problem that Valley potatoes were no longer being quoted on the exchanges. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. In the 1940s and 1950s, improved potato crops, highintensity fertilizers and chemical pesticides created the Green Revolution, the explosion of agricultural productivity that transformed farms from Illinois to Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Monte Vista Historical Society Courtesy of CPAC
  12. 12. The Colorado Potato Administrative Committee was founded in 1941 with the key goal of organizing the then more than 175 Colorado Potato Growers and Colorado Potato Shippers throughout Colorado under a common purpose and industry. In 1959, an Australian company had modified a basic approach to produce a center pivot system called the Grasslands. A California pump manufacturer Layne and Bowler brought the system to America, put rubber tires on it and renamed it the Raincat. Photo courtesy of CPAC Photo courtesy of CPAC
  13. 13. In the 1960s, refrigerated semitrailers began taking 97 percent of the San Luis Valley potato crop to its ever-expanding markets. Photo courtesy of CPAC The San Luis Valley Research Station and Valley farmers cooperated in testing new potato varieties. One of the new varieties with which the Research Station had been working on for several years “earned its name”– and since it received its diploma in 1976, it had been named the “Centennial”. With the Centennial, the potato industry in the San Luis Valley starts its second century. Courtesy of Sargent Stanley Consolidated “Community Culture”. Photo courtesy of CPAC
  14. 14. The Raincat company that brought center pivot systems to the U.S. went through several ownership changes, eventually landing in Greeley, Colorado. Raincat went out of business in the early 1980s. In October 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, created the technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, and eventually, feeding future space colonies. Photo courtesy of CPAC Today, crops are irrigated by some surface flooding but mainly by center pivot sprinklers. Photo courtesy of CPAC
  15. 15. The modern center pivot sprinkler, used by almost all growers in the San Luis Valley, allows the growers to control the irrigation. Water conservation is a big priority for Colorado potato growers. Efforts are being made to research and develop more efficient means of irrigation such as drip irrigation. Photo courtesy of CPAC Colorado potato growers are proud innovative stewards of our environment and natural resources. Photo courtesy of CPAC
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