Lifestyle & Human Interest

Idaho Farm Gives Away Millions of Potatoes for Free So They Don't Go To Waste


Lockdowns, sheltering in place, and the closure of many restaurants is disrupting many supply chains.

Farmers, some of the hardest working individuals (and a dying breed) are suffering from the sudden drop-off in demand, and now, many have nothing to do with the products they’ve spent blood, sweat and tears growing.

Ryan Cranney, the CEO of Cranney Farms in Oakley, Idaho, is one of those farmers. Without restaurants to buy his potatoes and turn them into sides like french fries, he’s been left with a literal mountain of potatoes that would go to waste.

“All the way from the upscale restaurants to the family sit-downs, diners. Stuff like that,” Cranney told KENS. “That’s just taking a total beating. Food service numbers are down, restaurant business maybe as much as 80, 85 percent in some places.”

“I didn’t really have a market for those potatoes, it’s something I would have had to dump or go to cattle feed.”

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Already accepting the financial hit, Cranney decided to do something more productive than let the pile of tubers rot. He posted on the unofficial Cranney Farms Facebook page on April 14 with a unique, limited-time offer.

“FREE POTATOES,” the post read. “We started dumping potatoes today as we have no home for them because of this Covid 19 disaster. The potato supply chain has definitely been turned up side down. If you would like a few bags come on by.”

The pile in the photo that went along with the post was made up of millions of potatoes.

“About 6000 bags, 100 pound bags,” Cranney clarified. “I mean there were several million individual potatoes.”

“I just felt like it could be something to maybe give back to the community. I know people are struggling financially with the shutdown of the economy.”

And with the message sent out, people started to respond, coming from near and far to scoop up some of the spuds.

“There’s been times where there were 20 or 30 cars there at a time,” the farmer said. “I think in the next several hours, most of that’s going to be all gone.”

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The act of kindness has had a ripple effect, with many of the people who responded to the offer delivering some of their bounty to others who could use them.

“A lot of the people there were not necessarily gathering potatoes for themselves, but they were gathering them for somebody else and going and delivering those, whether it was to friends, or neighbors, or family members, somebody they know that’s struggling,” Cranney explained.

Cartloads of the potatoes have also been taken off-site to increase the number of people who could benefit from them.

According to a post on the Cranney Farms Facebook page from Thursday, several groups came together to provide an additional pick-up point in Twin Falls, Idaho.

While many have benefited from the free food, Cranney doesn’t know what the future holds, and said he thinks the financial hit on farmers is “going to be painful for a lot of people.”

“We’ve decided to cut back the number of acres of potatoes that we are planting for the 2020 year,” he said. “I think the only thing worse than not planting them, is to plant them and not having a market for it.”

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