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The Potato in Michigan

Image of The Potato in Michigan ExhibitLong before it was sliced, diced, chipped and dipped, the potato played a prominent role in the agricultural history of Michigan. This exhibit reveals the potato's role in our state's heritage, its importance to early settlers as a staple crop and innovations in potato farming.

"When the pioneers migrated to Michigan, the potato was one of the very first crops they planted," explains Val Berryman, curator of history at the MSU Museum. "The state's excellent climate and sandy loam soils were ideal for potato cultivation."

The exhibit, in Heritage Hall at the MSU Museum, features early farm implements designed as innovative and modern solutions to growing and harvesting the popular tubers. On display: hand-operated potato planters and early horse-drawn planters made in Jackson, Mich.; a potato bug slapper -- a hand-operated paddle wheel designed to knock bugs off the plants; and an 1880s potato sorter that separated stones and undersized potatoes from full size ones. Michigan State University, established in 1855 as the nation's first agricultural college, played an important role in shaping future generations for careers in farming and agriculture. Included in the collection are 1930s instructional models of potato storage barns used by agricultural students at Michigan State College.