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Seed Season

Idaho’s potatoes start early

Published online: May 01, 2022 Articles, East Idaho Outdoors, Lifestyle, Outdoors Kris Millgate
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The Gem State is the nation’s top potato producer generating one third of the potatoes produced in the United States. According to USDA’s 2020 report, Idaho’s crop is worth $912 million in sales and 135 million cwt in weight.

Idahoans produce other crops and livestock too, but the spud is king where we live and it’s worth recognizing as you embark on your outdoor adventures this summer.

“This is a great life to be outdoors,” says Clen Atchley, Flying A Ranch seed potato farmer. “It’s high stress, but that’s the way it is when you run your own business. I wouldn’t ever want to do anything else.”

You’ll pass a potato field, or several, on your way out of town especially if you head north of Idaho Falls toward Island Park. That’s where potatoes are born. While the state produces potatoes for the whole country, Ashton Idaho produces the actual seed for the potatoes other farmers grow. It’s the largest certified seed potato growing area in Idaho. It’s also where the Atchleys experiment with new varieties.

“Kind of like watching a miracle every year and you can see that you actually produced something,” says Emma Atchley, Ashton Hi-Tech Seed Co. president. “When I try it in the greenhouse and I see that it doesn’t store well, then I’m through with it. If it’s not going to store well in here, it’s not going to store well in the cellar.”

Seed season starts in the snow season. Winter often lasts until May in Ashton so the Atchleys start their mini-tubers, seeds, in a greenhouse next to their fields instead of directly in outdoor dirt. Seeds are delicate as starts and they need some growing time protected from the weather before they go to the acres outside in the elements where they turn into the crop Idaho is famous for. 


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