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Idaho Potato Farm Tour

Sharon Palmer

It was really fun learning all about how potatoes are grown during an Idaho potato farm tour this fall. It’s really sad how the lowly potato—a simple, little plant-powered food—has gotten such a bad rap in recent years. As my readers know, I think potatoes are fabulous, you just have to use care over how you prepare them (avoid large amounts of unhealthful fats), and be sure to use portion control—a rule that applies to many foods. During my potato tour, I saw a potato straight from the farm that weighed about 1 pound! Of course, that’s an anomaly. Keep in mind that a serving is about 5 ounces each and you’ll be fine! Potatoes are America’s favorite veggie—we eat about 110 pounds per year! Most Americans like their potatoes baked—my favorite way to enjoy these tubers, too.

I started my farm tour in Idaho Falls, Idaho—a prime growing region for potatoes. On the road to the hotel, we spied potato farms—in the middle of harvest time, and potato sheds dotting the landscape. Every year, Idaho produces 13 billion pounds of potatoes! 94% of those are Russet potatoes, while the other 6% is specialty varieties, such as gold, red, and fingerlings. Why does Idaho seem to be the perfect spot for cultivating spuds? The rich volcanic soil, warm days and cool nights, and water from the Idaho mountains seems to give potatoes just what they want!

Our group on the potato field in Idaho

I learned all about potatoes during my trip to Idaho. I already knew that potatoes are rich in vitamin C (45% Daily Value in one potato), potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber. One potato only has 110 calories, which is a very satisfying food for that calorie payback. What I didn’t know is that the potato industry has been working diligently with fast food restaurants to ban trans fats in French fries for a while now—this type of fat is virtually eliminated in restaurants. And schools do not fry French fries—they oven bake them (a really healthy way to eat potatoes).

Idaho potatoes I dug up on a farm during harvest season

Potatoes—which grow in tubers under the ground—are the energy storage containers for the potato plant. The original potato is traced back to the Peru/Bolivia region, but they have since spread across the world and are enjoyed in many traditional diet patterns—from India to China. The potato “seed” is actually a chopped up potato which is planted under the ground and later will grow into a vine, with the tubers growing under the ground. When it’s time for harvesting, the vines are killed so the nutrients go to the tubers, and then they are harvested mechanically and placed in huge storage sheds before the potatoes are transported to be processed.

Inside a potato shed, being filled up with potatoes from ground to floor right after the harvest
Conveyor belts take potatoes from the field straight into the storage shed for the winter
In the potato processing facility

If it’s a whole, fresh potato (such as you find at the supermarket in bags), it’s simply washed, sorted, and stored. If it’s turned into a product (such as french fries or frozen potato products), the potato is simply washed, sorted, cut, precooked, and frozen. If it’s going to be turned into mashed potato flakes, the potato is simply washed, cooked, and run through a machine that creates a thin paper-like sheet of potatoes, which is cut up into flakes. Many of the potato farms across Idaho are family-owned; in fact we visited a potato farm at the James Joff Farm and had a lovely farm to fork dinner there.

James Hoff Potato Farm—sheds store potatoes during the winter prior to processing
Lovely potato fall table décor at the James Hoff farm to table dinner

The second day of our potato farm tour, we got to visit Lamb Weston to see how potatoes are turned into French fries. It was a much more simple process than I had suspected: Bring in mountains of potatoes, clean them, slice them, and precook/fry them, then freeze and package them.

We sampled sweet potato puffs and French fries straight from the floor

Next up: the Wada Farms tour, where we got to see how fresh potatoes are processed. We saw mountains of potatoes, which were cleaned and packaged for shipping out.

Potatoes come into the processing plant at Wada Farms 
Stacks of yummy fresh potatoes at Wada Farms! 
Famous Idaho Potatoes!

The next day we visited Idahoan to see how they turn fresh potatoes into instant mashed tators. It was fascinating to see mounds of potatoes fashioned into vats of mashed potatoes, which are then pressed into sheets of potato “paper” to become small flakes, which can be reconstituted into mashed potatoes at home.

Teton Springs Lodge, Idaho

The final leg of our potato tour was Teton Springs Lodge, in the majestic Teton Mountains, where we got to experience the true culinary arts of cooking with potatoes. Chef Rick Sordahl created a magnificent wine and small plates reception, with tempting tiny bites of potatoes, such as gold potato cups filled with asparagus.

A wine reception with potato-inspired appetizers at Teton Springs Lodge

For dinner, we made our way to the Linn Canyon Ranch for a dude ranch meal, which started with cocktails and appetizers by a roaring bonfire, and ended with a farm fresh table, inspired by vegetables from the garden on the ranch. It was a truly magical evening!

Fall porch décor at Linn Canyon Ranch
Beautiful farm dinner table at Linn Canyon Ranch
My plant-powered farm fresh veggie plate at Linn Canyon Ranch! 
When I arrived home from Idaho, look what awaited me! Now that’s gift I’ll be putting to use!

To learn more about the healthy benefits of eating potatoes, as well as delicious, creative ways to include potatoes in your meals, visit:

Alliance for Potato Research & Education
United States Potato Board
Idaho Potato Commission

For some of my favorite healthy potato recipes, check out:

Mashed Potatoes and Heirloom Carrots with Basil, Garlic, and Olive Oil
Red Potatoes and Rosemary Terrine
Vegan Guinness Stew

I am not a spokesperson or profiting from these products or companies; just providing my own unsolicited opinion about popular products, services, and organizations in the food world today!

4 thoughts on “Idaho Potato Farm Tour

  1. I am interested in visiting a farmer for a farm tour in September to observe harvesting of Idaho potato.Can yu direct me to a local farmer that can honor my request .
    Thanks Daniel Igwe

    • Hi Daniel, this was a private tour so I’m sorry that I can’t help, but you can check with a local farmer to see if they might be able to organize one. Thanks!

    • Hi, thanks for your interest. This was a private tour for dietitians arranged by the Potato Commission. However, I have found that if you contact local farms in your area they are more than happy to let you come by and learn about how they grow food. Sharon

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