Now Cranney Farms in Oakley, Idaho, is donating almost two million potatoes, so they don’t go unused. CEO Ryan Cranney told CNN that his potatoes are largely sold to grocery stores and restaurants to make french fries.
However, the almost nationwide stay-at-home orders have weakened demand, and now Cranney has a six-month surplus of potatoes.
“With people staying at home, these restaurants have shut down and so our markets have just kind of fallen apart,” Cranney said. “The factories that we sell to for french fries, they've lost their sales and had to shut their factories down with freezers full of french fries and so the outlets for our potatoes, we're having a difficult time getting them to market.”
Cranney told the news outlet that a little more than 50 percent of the farm’s sales derive from its potatoes. Cranney Farms also grows sugar beets, wheat, barley, mustard seeds, corn, and alfalfa, and raises cattle. The potato crop and cattle are seeing the worst of it.
“We've made our best assumptions, so we're cutting back what we're going to grow this year,” Cranney said. “If things turn around quickly and take off, we're going to be short. But if it drags on longer for several more months, it could be a total disaster. People are going to lose their farms over this.”
Cranney said he first posted about the unused potatoes on Facebook, asking those in his 700-person community to come to the farm and pick up as many potatoes as they want. People have started driving hours to grab potatoes from the farm, which is about 150 miles from Boise.
“The response has completely blown me away,” Cranney said. “People are coming from all over the place.”
He’s expecting a woman from Kansas to arrive, which is 19 hours away by car. Soup kitchens and food banks have also begun taking some of the surplus potatoes. A majority of people who are grabbing the potatoes are also taking some for friends and neighbors.
“We gave a little bit and now they're giving in return, and that's what made it worth it to me,” Cranney said. “It's been fun for me to see people thinking of others and give their time and resources to take care of other people.”