Ten miles east of the Moses Lake Stake Center, something big was happening. President Baker’s potatoes were being harvested. We drove out to see how that’s done here in Moses Lake. President Baker runs a family potato business. They farm 1000 acres, all planted in potatoes! That’s a lot of french fries!!
We are in the middle of potato harvesting right now. The harvest at the Baker farm lasts a full month, with 10 trucks bringing in 100 loads of potatoes every single day. Here are some photos I took of the process. I wish you could smell the earthy goodness of these potatoes!The potatoes are brought in from the fields to these large coolers pictured below. Each one of these coolers holds 6000 tons of potatoes. That’s a lot of French fries!! All of the potatoes grown on this farm will end up as fries somewhere in the world. Many are shipped to Japan or other countries in Asia, where fast food is a delicacy and people pay top dollar for a burger and fries.The potatoes stay in these coolers for several months, and from here they are sold and taken to processing plants, where they are washed, cut and turned into fries, hash browns, tater tots, and other potato products. The ideal potato shape is long and uniform, so it yields as many long fries as possible. Once they are cut (as they are shot through tubes of pressurized water and then blades), the smaller pieces and ends are used for hash browns and tater tots or curly fries. Did you know that every bag of French fries has a calculated amount of fries of each length?
Here is a truck that just came in from the fields, driven by a recently returned missionary who served in Ecuador:I learned that the harvesters in the field cut with a blade, about 1 foot or more deep under the potatoes, to unearth them. One plant yields about 12 potatoes. These are the large baking-potato type variety called Burbanks. There are many different kinds of potatoes grown in Washington. Most of them are brown-skinned with white flesh, and are called “russets.” Russet Burbank is the most common variety of russet potato. It is grown for French fries and for the fresh market.
Here the potatoes from the field are unloaded into this large bin, then they are quickly moved through the sorting process for storage.
Next a conveyor takes the potatoes past a sorting area, where women pull out rocks, big dirt clods and rotten potatoes before they are stored in the coolers. Most of the dirt is removed in the field before they get to this point.As you can see, these potatoes are moving Fast!Here are the sorting women, who do this all day long, day after day:Then the potatoes are moved along these conveyors to the coolers where they will be stored. This pile of potatoes is 20 feet high! It’s important to be sure there are no rotten potatoes buried here. I learned that these tubers are still living things when they come in from the field. If there are any nicks or cuts, they will self-heal after a week or two. Because they are still living, they need air. The floors of these coolers have slots for ventilation and air is pushed through this building from the floor up. It’s temperature-controlled and has enough pressure to push all the way through 20 feet of potatoes. Filling the pile is done with a remote control that directs the end of the conveyor.Here is another Baker brother, Hugh, helping direct the potato flow. This is the tunnel between the coolers. You can see the air vents along the bottom for the cooler on the left, which is being filled now. President Baker took us on a tour (up on the cat walk) of the cooler on the right which is already full. Here’s what it looked like inside: What a fun field trip! I’ve never seen so many potatoes in my life! This was fun. Here is President Baker with another of his potato-growing brothers, Leon:Before we left, they made sure we went home with some fresh-picked potatoes to feed our missionaries at the mission home. When I asked President Baker what is favorite way to eat potatoes was, he said, “French Fries, of course!” But he also likes mashed potatoes. He said once you’ve had a fresh-from-the-ground potato, it’s hard to eat a store-bought one. I can’t wait to taste these!
Below are a few fun facts about potato growing in Washington.
Did you know Washington State Farmers produce more potatoes per acre than anywhere else in the world?
Here’s a really interesting YouTube clip about potato growing in our area: