Potato project encourages "grow your own"

The theatre in the Food Hall at the Malvern Three Counties Show packed with school children and their teachers
Hundreds of primary school children converged on the showground at Malvern early on Friday, full of energy and enthusiasm - for potatoes. "Grow your own potatoes" has been the message being promulgated to schools by The Potato Council ever since 2005. The Council has been touring the UK with their 'potato bus' for the last seven years, encouraging teachers to participate whilst explaining how the project teaches primary-aged children about this valuable vegetable. With almost one million primary school children benefiting from  such a worthwhile classroom and outdoor experience, it's not surprising that this is a popular activity. Pupils learn how potatoes grow and how they fit into a healthy balanced diet; and all linked to the school curriculum.

Promoting the message that potatoes are healthy and really easy to grow
Schools from all around the UK who registered for the 2011 challenge were provided with a kit containing three tubers of each of two varieties of potato, grow-bags, instructions, interactive weather poster and ideas for twelve classroom-based projects - and the opportunity to win a makeover for a school allotment.

The schools participating on Friday 17th June, 2011 were all from the area local to Malvern. They planted their potatoes on 14th March, aiming to see whether their yield-by-weight would be sent through to the regional and then the national final. It was a fun event; organised chaos - such happy children with shrieks of delight as their crop was put onto the scales. Here one school is waiting with their planter; lush foliage emanating from just three tubers - but how many potatoes lie waiting to be harvested?

Sue Hodgson-Jones (centre) of TCAS organised Friday's event. Pupils watch anxiously as she  weighs and records the yield from one of the participating schools
Ably co-ordinated by Sue Hodgson-Jones, in charge of education at the Three Counties Showground, the potato challenge coincided with the Three Counties Agricultural Show - a marvellous focus on food, farming and countryside. As I chatted to one small boy, I asked him what I should write in my report: "Welcome to the Three Counties Potato Weigh-In," he said; and then others from the same school joined in, explaining so much of what they had learned.

Ann chats to one young pupil, asking his advice on how she should begin her report
For those at home, young or old, there's still just time to plant Dobies potatoes for autumn harvest; easy to prepare in so many ways, they can form the basis of many a delicious meal. Schools who want to grow more than the six tubers provided by the challenge can  take advantage of summer offers - and can also benefit from the Dobies Schools' Scheme for price reductions. (And schools can register with the Potato Council already for the 2012 challenge.)
The Potato Weigh-In was hosted by expert gardener and tv presenter, David Domoney

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