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The backside of a potato chip bag with nutritional information Jennifer Kiel
TATER TRACKER: My empty Kettle Brand potato chip bag — don’t judge, it took a few days. The back side prompts chip chompers to locate the farmer who grew the potatoes for the chips in each bag.

Tracking taters in my chip bag

As consumers become more familiar with farmers, it may lead to demand for changes.

I’m not a big fan of sweet treats, but I am a sucker for salty snacks. So, it’s not uncommon for me to have a can of peanuts or a bag of chips on one side of me, while cozied on the couch with my feet up and my laptop, well … on my lap.

I’m rather a fan of Kettle Brand potato chips. When writer’s block stalls my progress, which seems to happen more and more these days, I’ll take a break, munch on a few chips and let my mind rest. And, not unlike when I was a kid reading the back side of the cereal boxes while shoveling in breakfast, I recently checked out the flip side of my Kettle Farmstand Ranch-flavored chip bag.

On one side is the nutrition facts table — something I’d rather not know after I’ve eaten half a bag — and on the other side it says, in a very rustic, graphic way, “Kettle Brand potato chips, we love love love our farmers. You’ll love them too. Want to know who grew the potatoes in your bag? Find out their story:”

So, I go to the website, where I learn there’s something called Tater Tracker. By putting in a code that’s on the front of the bag, it takes you to a bio on the farmer who grew the potatoes to produce the chips in your bag.

From 'America’s Dairyland'

Turns out they produce a lot more than just dairy in Wisconsin. My Farmstand Ranch chips were grown by Shawn Bula, a second-generation farmer who followed in his dad’s (Mark) footsteps and is from Coloma, Wis. A short bio and a picture accompanied the page, as well as a two-minute video, providing on-farm insight.

I really thought it was well done, and another example of the marketing trend to connect consumers with their food sources. If you don’t already know, I’m the editor for both Ohio Farmer and Michigan Farmer. The September cover story for Michigan Farmer is about regenerative agriculture and how General Mills has launched a pilot program to encourage, fund and coach customized regenerative practices on three Michigan dairy farms — essentially turning them into laboratory farms to see what practices work, and also those that don’t work or need to be tweaked on each farm. Check out the story:  Pilot program bringing regenerative ag to 3 dairies. It’s the top story at today. 

While General Mills is looking to strengthen its supply chain, create greater economic resilience for farmers and build planetary resilience, it’s also keenly aware of growing consumer interest and demand in knowing how food is produced. It was good to hear General Mills is not trying to ram through or dictate management practices to farms. The company is providing consultants for implementation, while noting that any new management practices must be economically viable for growers.

The pilot provides a step into new territory, potentially spurring changes in thinking and farm management practices. The transition is acutely recognized as a walk, not a run, and the direction will vary among farms and change constantly.

Now, it’s time to take a break and try out the Backyard Barbeque flavor … chomp, chomp, chomp.

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