Friday, August 6, 2021

Matters of Competence

It has been several years since the Genuine Faux Farm held a stall at any farmers' market and we are now in our second year without the CSA farm share program.  We still grow things and raise poultry, but our focus has changed over the years - but that's a story for another time.

The distance we now have from farmers' markets allows us to tell a few stories that we might not have told in the past (for obvious reasons).

We had a good potato year and had plenty of them available on our market table.  We did not scrub the potatoes because we did not want to limit the storage period that customers would get if they decided to buy a bulk amount.  Don't get me wrong, they weren't completely covered in mud or something like that.  But, there was some dirt.

Now, truth in advertising.  There were times that our CSA customers got some DIRTY potatoes. But, it was either bring them or not bring them.  We did not force people to take them if they didn't want them.  And, they got cleaned before the next delivery.  And, we did warn them that we ran out of time.  But, this was not that situation - these were perfectly fine and presentable.

Heck, I remember the light dusting of soil that you would get when a bag of "Idaho potatoes" was moved from one spot to the other when I was a kid.  Our potatoes were nothing at all outside of that realm for dirt.

An individual came up to our stall, touched as many potatoes in the tray as they could and then announced in a disgusted voice, "these are FILTHY!"

I proceeded to explain our logic that we did not want to scrub the potatoes to reduce their storage period and the response was - "Well, you shouldn't have let them get dirty in the first place!"


At this point, I wondered if they were playing with me, but their posture and tone said they weren't.  I tried to explain further that the tubers grow under the surface of the soil, etcetera and the response to that was - "You're lying, they don't grow under the ground!"  And they huffed and stalked away.

Another vendor tried to confirm my statement, but they would hear nothing of it.

By the way, here is a tater (potato) plant from this season.  It was time for another photo anyway.

So, are we the best potato growers in the world?  Nope.  Part of that has to do with soils and available labor hours.  But, we do know what we are doing (for the most part).  Here's a post were we show our planting process for potatoes from a year or so ago.  And then here's an example of cultivating and hilling from 2017.  

Let me just say this.  After the number of hours I have spent picking up potatoes from the ground and fishing around in the dirt for some of them - I KNOW where the tubers grow.

I also know how raw my hands can get after 1200 row feet of harvesting.  I also know what it is like to lift 100 lb containers of potatoes (and attached) dirt onto a harvest rack.  It is safe to say that I have some level of expertise in potatoes and I will readily bow to growers who specialize in this crop rather than the more generalist approach we have followed for most years on our farm.

And here is what got me to thinking about this:

This is a meme or info-graphic (call it what you want) that was shared with me in social media.  I don't want to spend time quibbling with or about any of the small details here.  But, I want to point out that we, as humans, are notoriously GOOD at pretending we know more about something than we do UNLESS we want to get out of doing something - then we are amazingly competent about claiming we don't know anything about it.  Case in point - "I'm no good at math...."

We're just getting better at sharing this tendency and amplifying it in social media.

I do this sometimes myself and I am working at calling myself on it whenever it happens.

There is a fine line between exploring a topic and trying to learn as much as you can about it through discussion, exploration and extrapolation and anointing your own, partially informed, opinion as the truth.

The first step is to plant your own ten foot long row of potatoes and tend them for a season.  But, that will not make you an expert as to how an operation such as the Genuine Faux Farm should go about business.  It will only provide you with basic information as to the culture of a potato.

And perhaps, you will learn that the tubers DO grow under the surface of the soil.  

Oh look!  Dirt!


  1. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Unfortunately, as a slew of "myside bias" psychological studies confirm, your detailed explanation accompanied by concurrence from a dozen other farmers' market vendors would not change this person's mind; in fact they would likely believe in their erroneous thinking even more strongly. **sigh**

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. True- at least at a certain level. After all, if we place ourselves into a situation where we are confronted by others that we have gotten something wrong, it certainly doesn't make us feel much like admitting we are wrong in front of the whole crowd... I certainly understand that feeling. On the other hand, if a person can give themselves a little space so they can come to grips with being incorrect and handle their own personal embarrassment, there is hope. Perhaps I could have done better if I had asked them to explain a bit more about what they thought they understood earlier in the conversation - maybe get them into a place where learning was less threatening.... But, again, I was trying to run a market table. My mind was on other things.


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