Potatoes. God bless ‘em. I cannot actually remember a time in my life where I did not know what a potato was. Can you? I love potatoes. I was joking with some gals this week that I do not discriminate – spuds, red potatoes, purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, fried, mashed, au gratin…I like them all!
As we think of the things that make Idaho great, potatoes can easily top the list. With the perfect soil and climate (and so many other science pieces I’ve recently learned), Idaho is the ideal place to grow potatoes. I had never heard of potato harvest until a fellow titleholder at Miss Idaho this past year told me about it. As I began to represent this great state I realized I absolutely had to be a part of it all this year!
On Monday, October 9th I got to visit Reynolds farm in Ashton, Idaho. Melanie and Brett Reynolds were so gracious to let me (a perfect stranger who they just knew was Miss Idaho!) come hangout and witness a day of their two week harvest. When I got there the first thing they took me to was to see the cellars. These are big buildings built partially underground to keep the potatoes fresh and safe until they are sent out. The Reynolds plant seed potatoes or “first generation” potatoes. These are sold to other farmers to be replanted during the next season! The cellars regulate the temperature, humidity and other environmental factors. When they are full they are the size of a football field and filled 18 feet deep – that is a lot of potatoes. I’ve attached a picture below of me standing on the top of one of full cellar piles. It was amazing!
After seeing a full cellar, I got to go be a part of loading another one. Big machinery with large belts are used to transport the potatoes from the truck, sort the dirt off of them and then pile them into the cellar. One job I got to be a part of was grabbing out any extra clumps of dirt and “non-potato items” as they passed by before storage. Everyone there working was warm and welcoming – like a big family. Many of the workers come back to help every year and include some local Ashton youth! Even the older two Reynolds kids, Brooke and Tucker, were out helping. I loved that! It made things fun and eventful. Never a dull moment!
Next I hopped in the big potato truck and headed to the field with Melanie. The Reynolds grow over 1,300 acres of potatoes, and we were finishing the last 150 acres while I was there. When we arrived at the field Melanie aligned her truck bed with the tractor. The tractor pulled a combine that would scoop 12 rows of potatoes up at once and dump them into the truck. The process is so fast! I rode on the back of the tractor at one point to watch the whole thing. Could you imagine the days before any farm equipment?
There were so many pieces to the process. As someone who had never seen it before, I was truly mind blown. Like many experiences as Miss Idaho, it made me love and appreciate this great state even more. The day was filled with wonderful people working hard doing what they love with the people the love. That sure does sound like the dream to me. Thank you to all of our Idaho potato farmers! I am so grateful for the work you do to help Idaho shine. I can’t wait for potato harvest next year!