September 28, 2023
Fried potatoes: Chipping away at potato farmer's future

Photo: Thomas Bender/Herald-Tribune

Alan Jones

Southwest Florida Roundup

Fried potatoes: Chipping away at potato farmer's future

Rural Florida series

Art Levy | 8/28/2017

Potatoes might not be in the future for one award-winning potato farm.

Shortly after Alan Jones and his family established a potato farm in northern Manatee County in the late 1980s, Jones started hearing that fertilizer runoff from farms near the coast might be contributing to red tide, the fish-killing, toxic algae blooms that plague the Gulf of Mexico.

“It didn’t make me feel too good that we were getting blamed for red tide, and I didn’t even know what red tide was,” he says.

The perception, true or not, motivated Jones to figure out how to lessen his farm’s environmental impact.

At the time, most potato farms used seepage irrigation, which utilized a series of waterfilled trenches that raised the water table, soaked the soil and irrigated the plants from below. Jones tried something different. He used PVC pipe to deliver a smaller amount of water from below, as well as a centerpivot irrigation system that watered the plants from above. He also installed sensors so the fields’ water pumps would only turn on when necessary.

“The first year, we cut our water use 70%,” he says.

Jones Potato Farm also cut its fertilizer use — by an estimated 30% — using detailed maps of the farm’s soil composition. Fertilizer and other nutrients are only applied when and where they are needed, and in the correct quantity.

As a result, Jones and the farm, which employs 20 people year-round and more than 100 seasonally, has won a variety of sustainability and other awards over the years, including a 2016 agriculture environmental leadership award from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The farm, though, has an uncertain future. Much of its acreage is located off U.S. 301 north of Parrish, in a fastchanging area where the zoning allows non-agricultural uses. Jones, 49, doesn’t want to see his land become “strip malls and cul-de-sacs,” but he’s realistic that some sort of development — perhaps a town center — is likely.

“Just because it has been farmland for the last 50 years doesn’t mean it’s going to be farmland for the next 50 years,” he says.

See other stories from Florida Trend's September issue.

Get Florida Trend's September magazine – print or digital. Select from these options:


Access Article Now!


Get a single DIGITAL copy of this issue



Get a single PRINT copy of this issue

plus $3 postage & handling


One year in PRINT

plus a FREE gift!


One year DIGITAL

plus a FREE gift!


One year Combo

plus a FREE gift!


If you are already a print subscriber,
to your existing subscription here!
(or call our office at 727-892-2643)

* offer valid for new subscribers only

Tags: Southwest

Florida Business News

Florida News Releases

Florida Trend Video Pick

Largo park offers refuge for wounded, winged warriors
Largo park offers refuge for wounded, winged warriors

In the woods where only the powerful survive, you will find a common refuge for wounded and winged warriors. Twenty-two birds that once hunted are getting a helping hand and a permanent place to call home at the George McGough Nature Park in Largo.

Video Picks | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Do you believe that home values in Florida have finally peaked?

  • Absolutely!
  • No way!
  • The jury's still out...
  • Other (Let us know in the comment section below)

See Results

Florida Trend Media Company
490 1st Ave S
St Petersburg, FL 33701

© Copyright 2023 Trend Magazines Inc. All rights reserved.