“We had no idea what we were doing,” joked Eric Sorensen, a junior studying biomedical science, nodding at his coworker from across large machinery.
Parker Johnson, a sophomore majoring in international studies, smiled in dusty agreement.
“Neither of us knew how much we would get paid or what the hours would be, we just signed up,” Johnson said.
Unknowingly, they signed up for 13-hour workdays monopolized by potatoes, six days a week. The potato harvest begins around the beginning of September and continues through the beginning of October.
Sorensen and Johnson work on one of the 25,000 potato farms in Idaho and contribute to the 33% of potatoes Idaho distributes to the country. Their job is to make sure that rotten potatoes, rocks and sticks are taken off of the conveyor belt that leads to the pile of ready to sell potatoes.
“I’ve tried to pull 12 credits with this,” Sorenson said. “It’s not fun. I go home and then do like two hours of homework, maybe three and then I go to bed and wake up at 7 or 7:30 (a.m.).”
Their long hours reap rewards for the rest of the country. U.S, citizens are free of sticks and rotten potatoes in their french fries, hash browns and tater tots because of the work of people like Sorensen and Johnson.
“It’s a cool experience, but I’m not going to do it again,” Johnson said.
After reconsidering, he said he would come back as a driver— another group of workers all potato lovers are indebted to.