You can take a girl out of the city but can you take the city of a girl? I had my chance to find out last week when I spent 4 beautiful, potato filled days in Idaho Falls thanks to the Idaho Potato Commission. We had the pleasure of touring two farms, Idahoan Foods – a food service production site, eat more potatoes than you think you’d ever have in one day and finish off with a scenic drive and night in Victor, ID.
Our trip started off in style with a drive out to the farm of James Hoff, a 4th generation Idaho Potato Farmer. James’ family was gracious enough to host us for a delicious meal and I learned how to get that fluffy interior after baking a potato.
A little home away from home, James’ pup greeted us as we entered the farm and this little girl followed me around. I wanted to snatch her away, but I wasn’t sure how Sir Pugsley would feel about that.
Dinner at the Hoff Farm was served in James’ airplane hanger, where a collection of his prop planes are kept. Two beautiful red ones caught my eye and James flies the planes over his property to keep an eye on the crops. With so much acreage this is a time saving way to survey the land.
One thing I never thought I’d do was participate in a potato harvest, but that was exactly the plan when we visited the farm of Lynn Wilcox. With a shovel in hand, we got to the ground to dig up some of the largest potatoes I’ve ever seen side by side with his tractors on the land.
A few feet up the road at Lynn’s receiving bay, the potatoes were sorted for rocks and twigs and emptied out into a large climate controlled staging area. The storage size depends on each farmer, but this particular one can hold up to 1.3 million potatoes at any given time when completely full. The potatoes are kept here to cure at a temperature between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This process heals the potatoes from any bruising that might have occurred during harvest. From here the potatoes can be kept for storage or sent to processing where they are washed and sorted by size.
While the potatoes travel through the sorting belts, digital photos are taken of each and every one. This allows the machinery to sort correctly by size. Many of the giant potatoes end up going to food service, while the smaller ones are packaged to be sold in your local grocery store. Nothing is wasted, if any have imperfections, like the photo above of Lynn holding potatoes with “extra limbs” they are sent off to be turned into dehydrated potatoes. By the way, the taste and texture does not change with the size of the potato. So if you want a giant baked potato with your steak, go ahead and purchase that big boy.
The last full day in Idaho Falls was spent at Potandan but you might recognize them under the name Green Giant Fresh and Klondike Brands. We spent the morning learning about how they develop and breed new types of potatoes. It takes approximately 10 years from first seed until it comes to you in the market. Potandan takes great care with their process to bring you the best product out there. We had the opportunity to taste a number of their potatoes, such as the Klondike Rose and Goldust. Oh and yes in the photo below that is potato in the cheesecake.
No trip to a new place is complete without a few tastes of local goodies. Despite a full belly, I couldn’t pass up a pit stop to Reed’s Dairy for ice cream where the dairy cows sit right behind the shop (and an unofficial petting zoo of baby animals). Dinner at James Hoff included growlers off beer from Idaho Brewery Company and we stopped off at their tasting room for me to stock up on my beer glass collection.
This entire trip was just full of gorgeous land for this city girl who tends only visit states on the coast but the real eye opening beauty was the hour and a half drive to Victor, ID for our last night at Teton Springs Lodge. Walking around the property felt like a real life Bob Ross painting. Happy trees and clouds everywhere.
We were treated to a welcome reception by James Beard Chef Rick Sordahl, dinner at Linn Canon Ranch and dessert by a bonfire with homemade potato s’mores by Chefs Todd Downs and Adam Moore.
I’m going to leave you with the rest of the gorgeous photos but I must send big thanks to the most wonderful Don, Jamie, Inez and Sue and everyone else at the Idaho Potato Commission. I learned so much on this trip and it was such a pleasure to see where our food comes from and how it is harvested.
All this potato talk making you hungry? Check out these potato recipes made with Idaho potatoes!