GROWN IN IDAHO
The Idaho landscape changed considerably after the construction of a first dam, Swan Falls, in 1901. This was followed by other imposing works, including the Palisades Reservoir, for the purpose of forming huge water reserves to irrigate the state’s semi-arid farmland. With water collection deemed a priority, the Snake River and its many tributaries were channelled into one immense water reservoir, which is now strictly controlled.
The state of Idaho has strict water management regulations. The many retention basins are refilled when the accumulated snow in the high mountains begins to melt, which carries into a good part of the summer. The amount of precipitation in winter is therefore a good barometer for farmers. A winter with little snow means that water will be more strictly controlled during the growing season.
American falls dam
The state’s largest reservoir was created right in the bed of the Snake River. The American Falls Dam project flooded a huge tract of land. A town of the same name even had to be relocated to make room for the reservoir. Refilled with snow melt from the Rocky Mountains, it is used to irrigate farmland throughout the season, from sowing to harvesting.
Idaho’s farmland does not receive much precipitation, barely 30 cm annually, and mainly in the mountain regions and in winter. Without irrigation, potato, sugar beet and alfalfa fields would not be a part of Idaho’s landscape.
P otato crops have taken over 160 000 hectares of the state’s best, irrigated land. However, potato farmers have had to rotate their crops every two or three years to prevent diseases and discourage insects. The rotated crops include sugar beets and grains, which also require irrigation.
Although rain is rare in Idaho, the climate is ideal for growing potatoes: warm during the day and particularly cool at night, since most of the land used for intensive farming along the Snake River is around 800 metres above sea level. In the eastern part of the state, where there is the largest concentration of intensive farming, the growing season is between 90 and 100 days, while the northwestern part is lucky to get 180 frost-free days. Farmers must therefore compose with short, dry seasons.
Idaho is the largest potato producer in the U.S. Potatoes generate half of Idaho’s $5 billion in agricultural income and is the top earner in the industry, along with dairy production and livestock.
As a whole, Idaho has a diversified agriculture that maintains 100 000 direct jobs. Since a lot of energy goes into this sector, potatoes in particular, the Idaho Center for Potato Research and Education was created. This Centre has made great strides in promoting Idaho potatoes while running a number of research programs.
To build a strong potato brand, the Idaho Fruit and Vegetable Advertising Commission was created in 1937, later becoming the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). This public agency’s mission is to develop Idaho potato production and expand its markets. The IPC has a number of responsibilities, from support to research and all the way to marketing. It is funded by a tax deducted directly from potato growers.
This commission has succeeded in getting a certification mark passed. The seal of approval, found on bags of Idaho potatoes sold around the world, is a protected geographic identification, bearing the “Grown in Idaho” slogan.