Potato fields on the Fallon Flat are harvested by Brad and Jody Haidle and sons Jesse and Ryan and families. Photo by Nicole Dyer
By Nicole Dyer
For Yellowstone Newspapers
Potato harvest is in full swing in Prairie County for the Haidle family. Haidle Farms Inc. is a family owned farm that has been in business since 1985 producing sugar beets, wheat, alfalfa, canola and potatoes.
Brad Haidle and his wife, Jody, started to work with potatoes when their sons went off to college.
“We needed the extra income, and it’s a great way to use the land,” he said.
Located near Fallon, Haidle’s operation has been growing and harvesting both Ranger Russet and Russet Burbank potatoes since 2005.
The potato season starts the first week of April when the ground reaches 55 degrees.
Haidle uses sliced potatoes called seeders and a tractor to plant anywhere from 300 to 400 acres. This will yield millions of pounds of potatoes.
Harvest starts in late August or early September, starting with the faster maturing Ranger potatoes and finishing up with the Burbank.
Uniquely shaped potatoes like the one pictured are destined for the hashbrown shredder.
The potatoes are sent to processing plant where they are made into a variety of potato products. Stress caused from heat and cold causes growth stops and redirections in potatoes. While the unusual shapes can be amusing, stressed potatoes are destined to become hashbrowns, as opposed to the longer straight potatoes which are ideal for fries.
Each harvest season lasts about a month. The potatoes harvested by Haidles fill 12-20 semi-trucks daily.
Dana Armstrong is a picker who has worked for Haidle Farms for the last three harvest seasons. Her favorite part of the job is working with her co-workers and Haidle.
“It’s actually a lot of fun, and I’ll do it next year too,” Armstrong said.
The harvesting process for the potatoes starts when the 8345 RT tractor goes into the field and pulls the potatoes and a harvester fills the semi truck. The truck then hauls the material to the even flow, where it will go through the clod hopper, onto the picking table to be sorted by “pickers” to separate the dirt clods, roots, and stems and finally onto the last even flow to be loaded for shipping. The excess dirt is put back into the field, and the potatoes will be trucked to Jamestown, N.D. to be processed.
Haidle said potato farming is high risk and high reward.
“They are expensive, the equipment is expensive, and the weather is risky,” he said. “However, the profit is also rewarding, if all things go well.”
Published September 26, 2012