If you visit out of state and say you’re from Idaho, most people don’t know where you are talking about. But if you mention potatoes...well, that’s a whole other story. Idaho is synonymous with potatoes. So, it was no surprise to find out that Idaho had a Potato Museum.
I had no idea what to expect from a Potato Museum, however, when I pulled up and saw the HUGE potato outside, I knew this was going to be a very interesting adventure. The museum is in an old train depot. The women who took our tickets told us all about the origins of the museum and pointed us in the direction of pictures that told the story of potatoes in Idaho. There were singing Potato Heads, products made from potatoes, equipment used in growing and cultivating potatoes and even a kids area that teaches experiments made possible with the use of potatoes. It was really interesting to find out the many uses potatoes have.
To make it even better, there was a Potato Station Cafe serving up potato bread, a baked potato bar, potato salad and potato cupcakes. So yummy! Check out their website at idahopotatomuseum.com for everything at the museum. Spend an afternoon learning about Idaho’s famous potato origins. It's worth the trip!
History: A brief history of the potato in Idaho.
A History of the Potato in Idaho
by James W Davis
Excerpted from “Aristocrat in Burlap” / Published by the Idaho Potato Commission
“Say “Idaho” and the first thing most non-residents think of is the famous potato. Any history of Idaho would not be complete without considering the history of the potato industry.
In certain ways the mighty Snake River is the mother of Idaho’s potato industry. It has, through the centuries, transported and deposited much of the silt that farmers cultivate today in lower lying fields along the river course. It provides much of the water that makes possible the growing of a plant that needs a soil moisture of eighty percent for ideal growth. As it plunges a mile downwards in elevation along its course, the Snake generates electrical energy that makes pumping from deep wells possible, and most of the potato growing areas in the state lie contiguous to the Snake River Valley as it twists its way in a 550-mile arc across southern Idaho.
The first potatoes grown in Idaho were planted in northern Idaho by Rev. Henry Spaulding. It was a successful crop but his missionary work was brought to an end by the Whitman massacre and the Spauldings were forced to leave in 1850.
Potatoes again made their way to Idaho by way of Utah. Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847. On July 24 a five-acre potato patch was plowed and seed potatoes planted. The first irrigation in Salt Lake Valley was for the benefit of the newly planted potatoes. A week later the potatoes were growing.
Certain pioneers were sent northward from Salt Lake to settle other areas. One of these areas was Cache Valley. Some, thinking they were still in Utah, had actually crossed the border into Idaho and began to establish their farms there. One of these early settlers in what now is Franklin County was William Goforth Nelson. He recorded in the summer of 1860: “We all camped in our wagons the first summer, but we all got homes built by winter; these houses were built in the present meetinghouse lot in a fort. I spent the summer working on ditches, canton roads, and hauling poles and wood from the canyon. I raised thirty-three bushels of potatoes, which is all that was raised in Franklin that summer except for a few onions.”
This is the first recorded planting of potatoes in Idaho in an area where the settlers remained and the crop is still grown to some extent today. The planting was accomplished three years before the Idaho Territory was organized.
Those first Idaho settlers were pioneers mentally as well as geographically because they had the initiative and willingness to better their conditions regardless of physical hardships and uncertain futures.”
Location: The Idaho Potato Museum is located in Blackfoot. From Boise take I-84 E 235 miles. Then take Exit 63B / I-15 N for 17 miles. Take Exit 89 for I-15 Business/US-91 and follow the signs. The address is 130 NW Main Street / Blackfoot. You may contact them at 208-785-2517 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hours: September – May:
9:30am – 5:00pm M-Sa
June, July, August:
9:30 am – 7:00pm M-SA
Sundays, Thanksgiving & Christmas thru New Year’s
Seniors, AAA, Military…..$3.50
Children 4 & under……...FREE
Groups of 15 or more……$3 each
Eats: I strongly suggest eating at the Potato Station Cafe right at the museum. However, if you are looking for something different there are many restaurants and cafe all along Main Street and within walking distance.
There is a small park beside the museum that is perfect for a picnic.
Special Notes: They have ADA access parking and plenty of room for parking RVs and motorcoaches. They are handicapped accessible and definitely bring the kiddos!
They have a gift shop so be sure to pick everyone up a potato souvenir. I tote my potato keychain around with pride!