Alan Jones, owner of Jones Potato Farms in Parrish, Fl logs about 40,000 miles a year on his pickup and many hours in his office and in the fields or on the road. “I’ve had very few days off in the past couple of months,” said Jones, who has owned the 4,000-acre plus Jones Potato Farm since 1986.
“It’s been seven days a week for me,” he said. “Plants don’t know what day of the week it is.”
Jones was born to be a farmer, coming from an agricultural family who had potato farms in the St. Augustine area. After studying food resource economics at the University of Florida, where he met his wife Leslie, he came to Manatee County in 1986 to farm. “Historically Manatee County is a tomato-growing area,” Jones said, “but I thought there was potential for growing potatoes as well.”
Since potato farmers elsewhere in the United States have to wait until the temperatures warm up or the ground to thaw before planting, Jones felt he had an option for an earlier market for potatoes by farming farther south in Florida in Manatee County.
Jones Potato Farm employs 25 people year around and up to 100 during the growing and harvesting season.
Alan said he has a humanistic approach to farming. “People need clean water and clean air,” Jones said. “And in the same way you have to have a healthy soil with proper nutrients to grow your crop. If you feed the plants too much, it affects the quality of the plant just as does feeding it too little,” he said. “You have to try to minimize extreme conditions.”
Jones likened farming to raising a child: “You try to provide a consistent home life,” he said. “If you have a stable home you’ll have better success. That’s our main job, just as it is in farming,” Alan said.
The table potato varieties grown in most of the fields are red Lasoda and yellow Satina. A potato chip stock also is grown on fields near Duette.