Steve Streich’s father started the seed potato farm in North Dakota shortly after World War II. After Streich graduated college, he took over from his father and became a 2nd generation seed potato grower. Today, Streich’s son, Paul, is his partner on the farm with a potential legacy in one of Paul’s young sons.
The farm is close to Glacier National Park, a popular tourist destination for various recreational activities. Due to urban encroachment, brought on by being so close to the park, the farm was moved for a second time across the valley in Montana. Streich Farms has been in its current location for ten years with the benefit of beautiful, rock-free, dark soil left behind by the glaciers. The location is great for seed potatoes as it’s isolated from other potato farms and has harsh winters, both of which help to prevent disease and pests.
A small three-acre farm known as a nuclear field is the source of all seed on the farm. This is what is called a foundation farm, meaning they don’t buy any potatoes to plant. All the Streich farm potatoes begin in the nuclear field. In this field, potatoes are planted far apart, harvested one at a time, and the tubers from a specific plant are bagged together so they can be easily identified. The tubers are the mother plants which then move on to the G1, or generation one, field. The farm will grow three generations before they are sold to commercial growers and mostly turned into fries.
The G1 field requires the most maintenance because every part of the field is broken into sections and labeled with flags. Each section came from one potato plant in the nuclear field from the previous year. A seed certification agent, in this case, Montana State University, will test the whole field for viruses. They can then alert Streich to precisely which section of the field is infected with a virus. The entire unit is then removed. This year there were only two units that tested positive for an infection, one of the farm’s best years yet. Potatoes are only grown one out of every three years on a specific piece of land, so Streich Farms rotates its fields with canola and other crops. This gives the soil a chance to replenish for the healthiest, most high-quality potatoes. The seed potatoes are stored in a climate-controlled facility until they are ready to plant again.