It's easy to see how much is happening across our North Carolina sweet potato farm over the summer. May marks the beginning of the growing season, and around that time the plants grow green and leafy. What's not visible are the sweet potatoes bulging and maturing below the soil, and all the careful efforts made the months before that make the growing season flourish.
Springtime seeding starts in early March with a blend of seed potatoes and small "canners" reserved from the previous year's crop. Seed potatoes are stored in high-humidity rooms that are maintained around 58-60 degrees Fahrenheit. We elevate the temperature in March to around 70 degrees, which "wakes" them up. While the temperature rises, we prep our plant beds for seeding.
Our farming crews are busy bedding seed in five large greenhouses throughout April. We are mainly self-reliant since we gather seed potatoes from our prior crops, but when we need new seed we have long-time relationships with growers who acquire foundation seed stock from mother plants at North Carolina State University. The Covington sweet potato, the most popular variety in North Carolina, takes approximately 110 days to mature. (Boyette Brothers grows both conventional and Certified Organic Covington sweet potatoes.) Seed selection is not only based on the variety of the sweet potato and grower sources, but also on the seed's rank. The Nature Conservancy ranks seeds on a global scale and Boyette Brothers uses only G1 or G2 seed. Occasionally G3 seed is used, but any grades above this tend to be misshapen or too long. By the of April, all seed bedding in the greenhouses is complete!
Dedicated teams begin transplanting in early May and persist through mid-July. The sweet potato crop takes a tremendous time and effort to plant! During this time, two rounds of cutting from seed take place (for transplanting) and workers nurture the fields every week.
Farm work continues for optimal growth until fall harvest. Until then, weed control, pest management, and other farm practices remain ongoing efforts. Then it's time for curing and distribution. Learn about production and our sustainable farming practices.