The Washington State potato growers rank first in per-acre yield of potatoes, far above other potato-producing states and countries, and 45 percent more potatoes per acre than the US average. Grant County in Central Washington (Moses Lake area) is the #1 potato producing county in the United States!

At least nine out of every ten Washington potatoes are marketed outside of Washington state, with a significant portion of these going to overseas markets.

Washington potato growers have been recognized with national awards for environmentally friendly and efficient use of water and fertilizers.

Did you know?

In 2017, Washington growers raised 165,000 acres of potatoes with an average yield of 60,000 lbs. per acre, 9,900,000,000 lbs total.  If those potatoes were packed in standard 50 lb. cartons laid end-to-end, they would stretch over 55,000 miles. That’s more than twice around the earth!(www.potatoes.com)

Potatoes represent the State’s third largest agricultural crop with a farm gate value of over $772 million.  “Farm gate value” means the unprocessed value as it leaves the farm.

The potato industry has a $7.4 billion economic impact and is responsible for 36,000 jobs in the State of Washington.  99% of the potato farms throughout Washington state are family owned businesses whose owners have deep roots in their communities.

20 potatoes a day - a true Washivore diet!

The Healthy Potato?

Potatoes and the Environment

Potato growers throughout Washington state are working in concert with the environment.  

Our growers are leading the industry in identifying ways to protect the land, water, and air so their fields and our lives can be as healthy as possible.

Potatoes can be infected by many plant diseases. To help protect the plants from diseases, farmers usually grow potatoes in each field once in every four years. This is called crop rotation.  The three seasons between potato crops allow time for potato-infecting diseases to die out in that field.

Today Washington state potato growers are using less water than ever before to grow some of the highest yielding harvests.  They are incorporating the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control pests.  Growers are using technology like never before that allows them to use machinery as efficiently as possible to help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.   All of these elements combine to keep our state’s growers carbon footprint lower and yields higher than other region of the world.

Growing Potatoes in Washington

Prior to planting, growers determine how fertile the soil in their field is. They have the soil analyzed to determine how much nitrogen, phosphorous, and other essential plant nutrients it contains. Then the grower orders a fertilizer mix specially tailored to the needs of their particular field. This will allow him to grow a high-quality potato crop without wasting fertilizer (which costs him money).

Potatoes are attacked by many pest diseases and insects. Growers carefully watch their fields for disease symptoms and insects. Scientists track disease and insect populations throughout Washington’s potato-growing region, and provide helpful information to the growers. One of the most important pests of potatoes is late blight. This is the disease that caused the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. This disease can completely destroy a potato field, and can quickly spread to neighboring fields. Everyone must work together to control it in a region. Growers treat their crops to protect them from late blight using fungicides that stop late blight infection. They follow the recommendations of scientists who have studied and understand the biology of the late blight fungus. 

The success of the Washington potato growers has been built on their adoption of new practices and technology developed through research programs in the public and private sectors. From horse-drawn equipment of 100 years ago, potato growers have advanced to using laser-guided planters, tractors that navigate fields using satellites (GPS), and irrigation equipment that delivers exactly the needed amount of water and no more. Growers also continue to transition to safer and more effective pesticides.

Tips for buying potatoes

Whatever the variety, look for potatoes that are firm, smooth and fairly clean. Avoid those with wrinkled or wilted skins, soft dark areas, discoloration, cut or bruised surfaces or greening.

When purchasing potatoes consider:

  • Storability
  • Menu use
  • Cooking method
  • Plate presentation
  • Flavor
  • Color

Misconceptions regarding the nutritional value of the potato abound. In fact, an average (~5.3 oz) potato with the skin contains:

  • 45% of the daily value for vitamin C
  • 620 mg potassium, comparable to bananas, spinach and broccoli
  • trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc
  • all for only 110 calories and no fat.

And potatoes with the skin on are an excellent source of fiber.

In fact, with 2 grams of fiber per serving, a potato equals or exceeds that of many “whole” grain products – like whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta and many cereals.

Despite the popular notion, the majority of nutrients are not found in the skin, but in the potato itself. Nonetheless, leaving the skin on the potatoes retains all the nutrients, including the fiber, and makes potatoes easier to prepare.

As one might expect, potatoes are a good source of minerals since they spend their life underground. But potatoes are also a great source of vitamins.  Besides Vitamin C, the many varieties of Washington potatoes are also high in B vitamins, helping the body make healthy red blood cells and amino acids.

Potatoes contain no fat or cholesterol and minimal sodium.  A six-ounce potato contains 2 grams of highly digestible protein, almost as much as half a glass of milk, making it a great foundation for a whole meal.

Because of the variety of potato colors, shapes, sizes and textures and their versatility as recipe ingredients, you can have potatoes for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three) and support the daily fruit and vegetable servings recommended for good health and nutrition.

Dollar for dollar, Washington potatoes deliver more nutrition than any other produce item.

Storing Washington Potatoes

The right storage conditions will help potatoes maintain their quality.

Store potatoes for all uses except French frying (see below) in a cool (42-45°F), dark, well-ventilated area, away from strong-smelling produce, preferably in closed or covered cartons and on pallets for air circulation.

Store away from other fruits and vegetables, especially onions as they may transfer odors and gases that affect quality.

  • DO NOT refrigerate
  • DO NOT freeze
  • HANDLE carefully – potatoes can bruise
  • DO NOT wash potatoes until ready to peel or prepare

Here’s why:
Temperatures warmer than 45°F encourage sprouting and shriveling; colder than 42°F encourage transformation of starch to sugar, which changes the taste and the cooking properties. 

Keep them in the dark. Storage in direct light can produce greening (actually the production of chlorophyll) which gives a bitter flavor and, in very large quantities, can be harmful to eat. Trim or peel small green spots before preparation. Discard very green potatoes.

Storage for Potatoes To Be French Fried. For the very best French fries, Washington russet potatoes should be stored at 45°-50°F from harvest until ready to use. If stored at temperatures below 45° (in a refrigerator, for example) the starch turns to sugar and the fries will turn dark, caramelize and soak up the cooking oil, making them greasy when cooked. Potatoes out of storage in the late fall/early winter are best for fresh-cut French fries.

Many thanks to the Washington Potato Commission for many of the facts and images used for this feature!