An east Idaho business needs the public's votes to earn a grant that would help them expand their business tremendously.
Everything Potatoes, Inc. of Idaho Falls is vying for the Cultivating Change grant, offered by national produce distributor PRO*ACT. The grant is worth $75,000 and people can vote once per day until Jan. 31. More than 100 farms throughout the U.S. are competing for the grant.
Everything Potatoes, Inc. has proposed to use the grant money as follows:
Potato Hyster ($6,000)
Reusable Bins ($2,000)
Bin Dumper ($2,500)
Everything Potatoes, Inc. is the brain child of Sandy Bragg, president, and husband Jeff Bragg, vice president, whose mission is to offer a healthier potato option as far and wide as possible while still being involved in every stage of development.
The organic potato market has been a growing niche market the last few years as people gravitate towards organics for better health and flavor. Everything Potatoes, Inc. offers a colorful mix of seed potato and fresh potato varieties, from Russian banana to Rose Finn Apple fingerlings to Huckleberry Gold.
Unfortunately, labeling is still a bit behind when it comes to organic and conventional potatoes. When consumers go to the store, the nutrition label for all potatoes is the same, even though the different varieties offer differing nutrition.
"They are not even close to each other," Jeff said. "Bora Valley, for example, are bred to prevent colon cancer."
Ideally, consumers could get to know each potato variety by its name, flavor, and use, similar to different apple varieties.
Sandy stressed that flavor is always on their minds when developing new potato varieties. Because if it doesn't taste good, no one will eat it. Their varieties, she explained, are so tasty they don't need anything piled on top of them.
"These taste so darn good," she said. "Nothing but minerals, vitamins, and health."
The husband and wife team have a strong background in all sides of agriculture, including potato farming as well working at universities and agriculture companies. They've seen the ups and downs of the Idaho potato market over the years and want to see smaller farms come back to life again.
Along their journey, Jeff found out he was insulant resistant and so researching and changing his diet was the new normal. Developing a potato with a low glycemic index was at the forefront of their new business.
But it's not just about perfecting the potato. How they grow and handle these potatoes is everything. The Braggs feel that many big food corporations have lost touch with what's really important -the people who are consuming the food.
"We have to clean up our food supply," Sandy said. "It's not just about money. It's about tender loving care. We are very hands on."
Family is at the core of what they do and when seed potato planting and harvesting comes, all of the family is involved. While starting Everything Potatoes, Inc. several years ago was a leap, especially considering they are in their 50s, they feel it was a risk worth taking.
"It's scary to step outside of what you know," Jeff said.
Their ultimate goal is to grow potatoes for the school system for a low price, as well as promote the idea of knowing where food comes from.
Winning the grant would help the company develop its own packaging so they could keep costs down in order to distribute more widely, including to local farmers, co-ops, and home gardeners.