A sweet potato is not the easiest thing to grow.
First off, the plant it simply does not tolerate frost. Secondly, they grows best at an average temperature of 75 degrees. And third, it just takes a lot of work.
So is it worth it?
You bet you’re starchy bottom dollar it is.
So let’s head to Chickasaw County where (at least Jacob Kittilstad would say) some of the best sweet potatoes in the world are born at Earp Farms Inc.
“If you’re going to raise 250 acres of potatoes, you need to specially bed about 250 bins of seed potatoes,” Jamie Earp said, walking through a farm field in Houlka.
“We have three keys that we try to go by. One thing is starting off with a good healthy plant. The second thing is having your field and dirt in real good shape. And hopefully you can get some spring rains with that,” Earp said.
Jamie works with his brother Ricky who handles one side of the business…
“…working on stuff and we clean up ground and just whatever needs to be done,” Ricky said.
“[Jamie’s strength is] financing. Keeping up with the who’s getting paid and not getting paid and making sure we get paid,” Ricky said.
The sweet potatoes grown on the farm are separated into three groups. #1’s would be an average sized sweet potato typically found in grocery stores and #2’s are slightly smaller.
The ‘jumbo’ classification speaks for itself.
All told last year the farm pulled a total of 5.5 million pounds of sweet potatoes from the ground.
Growing sweet potatoes is labor intensive work involving planting seeds, cutting slips, re-planting slips, and pulling up the sweet
All that hard work means there are a lot of benefits to working as a team.
“My brother and I get along real well. He does things that I don’t particularly care to do and I do think he don’t particularly care to do,” Jamie Earp said.
“But we can both do it all. And it’s just been great being in a family atmosphere. And our wives both drive tractors for us as certain times of the year. So it really makes it a family atmosphere,” Jamie Earp said.
“We love sweet potatoes around here. We’ll fix ’em in numerous ways. Baked sweet potatoes is our favorite. And we got some grandkids that really love the sweet potato pie. And they’ll actually fight over those if my wife cooks,” Jamie Earp said.
Earp Farms is in Houlka right there next to Vardaman. And if you know anything about sweet potatoes you’ve probably seen those city names on a bushel you’ve picked up at the store.