There are three things that I love to do more than anything else: go new places, meet new people, and learn new things. I’m sure this is one of the reasons I love blogging: there are so many opportunities to do just that. Last week I had the most wonderful time visiting Idaho as a guest of the Idaho Potato Commission. I was one of a group of bloggers and dietitians who were invited to celebrate the Idaho potato harvest by meeting farmers and industry representatives, visiting farms and packing/processing facilities, and tasting foods and drinks made with Idaho potatoes over the course of three very full days.
On our first night in Idaho Falls, we were invited to the Hoff Brothers Rainbow Ranch for dinner. The Hoff family has been farming potatoes for four generations, and flying planes for three generations. Upon our arrival we were greeted by James Hoff, who began working in the family business at age 12 and now manages the day to day operations of the farm.
He introduced us to the basics of potato farming, with the story of his family farm beginning in 1895. We saw the fields where the potatoes had been planted in the spring and would be harvested as soon as the ground was dry enough after the recent rains. We saw the equipment that would be used to do the job, and we saw the potato storage where the potatoes would be kept until they were sold. As the sun was setting though gorgeous rain clouds in an enormous sky and the temperature became cooler, we moved toward a building where the aroma of grilled beef and chicken was too inviting to resist.
Can you imagine inviting a busload of people you don’t know to come over for dinner? Bob and Joan Hoff, with their son James and his wife Darla, have become accustomed to entertaining groups who come to learn more about the potato industry. We were flabbergasted to find ourselves in an airplane hangar filled with antique planes, which the Hoff family has collected, restored, and flown. The enormous space was beautifully decorated and set up for a dinner near the airplanes, with potato harvest themed tablescapes, centerpieces, and a gorgeous buffet. We began to feel like members of an extended family who had been anticipated and now joyfully welcomed.
This was a meal that had been lovingly prepared by Joan and Darla Hoff, who know magnificent ways to showcase the produce grown on the family farm. So many flavors and variations on Idaho potatoes, served in a place where generations of one family, originally from Norway, have raised families and made their living from the land. The potatoes they grow have fed generations of families across our nation as well. And now we were enjoying an evening with new friends from across the USA and Canada. During the meal we were treated to a lesson on how to bake the perfect Idaho potato by James Hoff, and an introduction to the Idaho potato industry by Dr. Potato himself, Don Odiorne.
What a perfect introduction to the next several days, when we would meet friendly and open Idahoans, eager to share with us their love for their communities and their chosen work. We would see first hand how potatoes are made into the french fries everyone loves, and the dehydrated potato products so many people rely upon to feed their families. And we would experience the beautiful state of Idaho in autumn.
At the end of the evening we were treated to Huckleberry Ice Cream. I can honestly say I have never tasted anything so creamy and sweet before….not at all sour like a sherbet, but full of berry flavor without being over-powering. The Hoff family picked the huckleberries in summer and delivered them to a local dairy to be made into this custom dessert, served for special occasions. By the time we drove back to our hotel, we all felt as though we were part of a big family. And the adventure was just beginning.
On the left, front to back: Erika of Nibbles and Feasts, Don Odiorne, Vice President of Food Service for Idaho Potato Commission, Niki of NikSnacks, Amee (behind Don) of Amee’s Savory Dish, Renee of Magnolia Days, Isabel of Family Foodie,
Disclosure: I was invited on an expense-paid trip to Idaho by the Idaho Potato Commission to observe the potato harvest and learn about the potato industry. I was not obligated to write this post, was not paid to write the post, and all opinions and experiences are mine.
Check out my recent potato recipe posts. Stay tuned for more about my trip to Idaho and the wonderful world of Idaho potatoes!