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Local farmers hosting annual potato dig for the community this weekend

Local

IDAHO FALLS – Amid inflation and soaring gas and food prices, many families have felt a strain on their bank accounts. Certain grocery items may not be as attainable as they used to be.

A local farm is hoping to provide some relief. Vista Valley Ag, a potato farm in Ririe, is hosting a community potato dig on Saturday. Between 10 a.m. and noon, anyone is welcome to dig potatoes from their 5-acre field for free and take them home.

“Bring the kids out to the farm. Let them get in the dirt and pick a box or two of potatoes,” Josh Foster, whose parents own the farm, tells EastIdahoNews.com.

The event has been an annual tradition for Boyd and Laurie Foster for the last 24 years. It attracts people throughout eastern Idaho every year, and people as far as Wyoming have even shown up.

It was Josh’s grandmother, Melba, who started the tradition.

Laurie explains Melba didn’t like the idea that there could be people in eastern Idaho going without food during the holiday season. They had an overabundance of potato crops that year and wanted to share it with those who could use it rather than let it go to waste.

“We started out taking a truck and putting a sign up that said ‘come and get free potatoes.’ People did that, but they didn’t feel right about it,” Laurie recalls about the first year. “We tried it a little different the next year, and we still didn’t get the feel that — we thought we’d give away more potatoes.”

In the ensuing years, they decided to set aside five acres of their crop specifically for this purpose and let people know about it through local churches and schools.

“It ended up being something that people love,” Laurie says.

Not only does Laurie enjoy being able to share her good fortune with others, but she says it’s also an educational opportunity. Through the years, she’s realized many families have never experienced working in a potato field and it’s fun for them to see what it’s like.

“If older generations come, they say, ‘When we harvested potatoes, this is how we had to do it. We didn’t have a machine that opened up the ground and dumped everything,'” she says.

tractor in field
Tractor digging up spuds during a potato dig in 2019. | Josh Foster

It’s a joy for Laurie to overhear families talking about picking potatoes for a friend or loved one who’s elderly or in poor health and not able to come.

For Josh, it’s a thrill to watch people bring their kids and play in the dirt.

“Watching kids get dirty and imagine,” Josh says about his favorite part of the dig. “We’re all far removed from our food sources so there’s some heritage in all of our DNA about seeing our food out in the dirt. It’s a very Idaho thing. We’re just proud to be potato farmers and it’s fun to show it to our community.”

Some years aren’t as well attended as others, which often has to do with inclement weather. As of Thursday, there are expected to be clear skies on Saturday with a high of 73.

“We anticipate this being the biggest one we’ve ever done, so be reasonable (in how much you take). If you take a lot, we hope you give some away to others in need,” says Josh.

Vista Valley Ag is at 125 West Ririe Highway, but the field where the dig is happening is two miles south of U.S. Highway 26 on Meadow Creek Road. The Fosters are reminding those who come to bring their own containers.

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