Have you ever wondered how potatoes get from farms to your plate?

Kent Sutton, a Rexburg potato farmer and general manager and co-owner of the Bench Mark Potato Company Inc., shed some light on the potato process.

Potatoes soon after arriving at the Benchmark packing facility.

Potatoes soon after arriving at the Benchmark packing facility. Photo credit: Kenzie Fox

“Bench Mark is a packing facility,” Sutton said. We take dirty, rough … potatoes from the farm (and) we bring them to this facility. We wash them, grade them, sort them (and) package them in whatever package is appropriate for the customer that wants to buy them and then we ship them out.”

The process starts at the farm where the potatoes are planted and harvested. After they are harvested, they are loaded into a big truck and shipped to a storage facility until they are ready to be used.

Potatoes being cleaned before sorting.

Potatoes being cleaned before sorting. Photo credit: Kenzie Fox

“Even though we only grow one crop of potatoes, we store the potatoes and then we process the potatoes throughout the year,” Sutton said. “So we always have potatoes available for the customers.

When the potatoes are ready to be used, they are taken to the Bench Mark facility where they are cleaned, sorted, packaged and shipped out.

As soon as the potatoes arrive at the facility, they are loaded onto a conveyor belt that sends them through a cleaning process to remove dirt.

Potatoes being sorted by size.

Potatoes being sorted by size. Photo credit: Kenzie Fox

The conveyor belt sends them through a sorting machine where a camera takes pictures of the dimensions of the potato and calculates what it would weigh before sorting it into its designated category.

According to Sutton, “(The) bigger potatoes end up at restaurants and smaller potatoes go to grocery stores.”

This is why they are sorted into boxes by size. Sutton explained that people are more likely to eat larger potatoes when they get them from a restaurant, but when they buy them from the store they are usually looking for smaller potatoes.

After the potatoes are sorted, the boxes are inspected by hand so that any rotten or green potatoes can be removed. The boxes are closed and stacked on pallets with about 42 boxes to a pallet. Finally, the pallets are loaded into semi trucks, about 20 pallets to a truck, and shipped to the customers.

Potatoes stored in boxes waiting to be shipped out.

Potatoes stored in boxes waiting to be shipped out. Photo credit: Kenzie Fox

Their clients include Texas Roadhouse, Wingstop and businesses in Arkansas, Singapore, Malaysia and Mexico.

“Eat potatoes,” Sutton said. “Potatoes (are) one of the healthiest things that you can eat. You can eat (them) a number of different ways and … (they) bring you a lot of satisfaction. They’re … a staple in our society.”