Bryan Wada understands his fate is directly tied to the Idahoan ground where he both farms potatoes and lives.
Meet Bryan Wada, third generation potato farmer, hailing from southeastern Idaho. He learned to love the soil from his grandfather and father. With careful planning and being a good steward of the land, the family’s business has grown from a 100-acre sharecropper farm to a 30,000-acre business that grows 450 million pounds of potatoes each year. Here’s Bryan’s story:
The Wada farm history
Our family farm started with my grandfather, Frank Wada. As an immigrant from Japan, Frank started his family and farm along the California coastline until the tragic events of Pearl Harbor. Japanese-American citizens were forced away from the coast by the attack. Luckily, our family did not go to an internment camp, but ended up relocating to southeastern Idaho in 1943 where Frank restarted farming as a 100-acre share cropper. In 1972, my father, Albert, took over the operation and under his entrepreneurial leadership the farm grew. Currently, I (Bryan Wada) am the third generation of a farming business that grows nearly 30,000 acres of crops in Idaho.
Annually, we grow wheat, barley, alfalfa, quinoa, and corn in addition to potatoes. However, our primary focus is potatoes. Our potato production is approximately 4,500,000 hundredweight or 450,000,000 pounds of potatoes. We grow the traditional russet (brown), reds, yellows, organics, and specialty varieties.
Potato farming practices
Farming today requires both a love of the soil and focus on professional-business decision making. We start planning as early as a year before the crop is actually planted in order to make sure we are rotating our ground correctly, identifying the healthiest seed, and ensuring we are communicating with our customers. We will start planting our crop mid-April and begin harvesting our crop in late August. Harvest will last through the first week or two of October with a majority of our crop being put into large storage bins that are able to hold the potatoes with quality for up to 10 months.
Our crop is watered primarily through center pivot irrigation (a method of crop irrigation where equipment rotates around a pivot or center point and crops are watered with a canopy of sprinklers.) The water is supplied by either surface water canal systems or pumped by well from the Snake River aquifer. In either case, the agricultural industry focusses on conserving water and making the most of our natural resources.
Sustainability and farming practices
It is very important to us to be good stewards of the land and our natural resources. We have farmed in southeast Idaho for 76 years and understand that our fate is tied directly to the ground and environment that we not only grow on but live in too. We are mindful of our water usage and work to minimize the applications of fertilizers and chemicals through variable rate systems and grid-based soil samples. This serves both financial and environmental sustainability.
Farming practices and attention to detail can make a significant impact on overall quality – from the appearance of the potato to its ability to resist diseases or damage to the actual solids and gravities of the tuber. All of these can combine to make the difference on how the potato will store, cook and taste.
Raising the perfect potato is both an art and science. Each year weather conditions leading up to and during the growing season impact the choices we make on irrigation, fertilizers, and other inputs. Other challenges can be the health of the seed, insect and weed pressure, and potato diseases. How well a farmer can anticipate or respond can make significant differences with the quality and appearance of the crop.
Why Idahoan potatoes?
Idaho’s rich volcanic soil, warm days, cool nights, and clean water from the majestic Idaho mountains provide Idaho® potatoes with the unique texture, taste, and dependable performance. Click here for more harvesting and potato facts from the Idaho Potato Commission.
Photo Credit: Wada Farms
Click here to see how processed Idaho® potatoes cut prep time while adding customization options in a September 2019 Gold Medal Classroom feature.