No matter what part of the United States you call home, chances are good that your local grocer stocks and sells the famous Idaho potato. This is no coincidence in that southeast Idaho is home to the single largest potato-producing region in the United States. Over 30% of all United States potatoes originate from here. For Idaho, the crop is a boon to their economy in that it makes up approximately 15% of the gross state sales.
Idaho is a sparsely populated and little known (beyond its’ potato fame) state. It varies in terrain from rugged mountains and wilderness areas, to the high desert, to expansive valleys where the potato industry has thrived. The valleys have the perfect mix of mineral rich volcanic soils, plentiful irrigation water, and a growing climate with warm days and cool nights during the summer months.
The potato industry is fascinating and one that we truly take for granted when considering our high potato product consumption rate. In a nation where French fries are considered an acceptable vegetable and urban children believe mashed potatoes come from a box (not a farm), a visit to the potato region of Idaho and perhaps a guided tour of a potato farm would be an eye-opening and informative experience.
I was given the opportunity to visit such a farm a few years ago and was introduced to the production issues surrounding a potato farm. There are so many things that have to be considered such as soil fertility, irrigation water application, harvesting and storage conditions that it is amazing we see potatoes in such large quantities in such a blemish free condition. I would encourage any visitor to Idaho to explore the potato region and inquire at visitors’ bureaus about local farmers who would be willing to provide tours of their farms. The planning and equipment involved will astound you.
A good place to start your exploration of the Idaho potato is the Idaho Potato Commission. There is also a museum located in Blackfoot, Idaho called the World Potato Expo which will offer you some history on the potato in that region as well as provide you with a souvenir potato product for your visit. Idaho is a beautiful state and offers a bountiful array of activities and scenery. If you are traveling through the southeast region, be sure to stop and take the time to learn more about Idaho’s famous potatoes. You’ll never look at a spud in the same way again.