The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 200 B.C. In 1536 Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru, discovered the flavors of the potato, and carried them to Europe. Potatoes arrived in the United States in 1621 when the Governor of Bermuda sent two cedar chests containing potatoes and other vegetables to the Governor of Virginia. Scotch-Irish immigrants established the first permanent potato patches in North America in 1719.
From there, the crop spread across the country. In the 1840s a major outbreak of potato blight swept through Europe, wiping out the potato crop in many countries. When the blight reached Ireland, their main staple food disappeared.
Over the course of the Irish Potato Famine, almost one million people died from starvation or disease. Another one million people left Ireland, mostly for Canada and the United States.
Following the famine, most Americans regarded the potato as food for animals rather than for humans, until an effective fungicide was found in 1883.
According to the United States Potato Board, today there are more than 1 million acres of potatoes planted in the United States—that’s like filling the whole state of Rhode Island with potato plants. The potato is the leading vegetable crop in the U.S. with a total production of 41.3 billion pounds.
Why Wisconsin Potatoes?
- No other state offers the range and variety that Wisconsin does – from russets, round whites, and round reds to yellow flesh, and blue and purple varieties – you’ll find them all in Wisconsin!
- Cool northern climate paired with a rapid spring warm-up and rich glacial soils make Wisconsin the ideal growing location for many varieties of potatoes.
- Centrally located, Wisconsin growers can efficiently ship a consistent supply of potatoes to consumers in all areas of the United States year-round.