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Despite freezing temperatures, Idaho potato farmers harvest majority of crops

Despite herculean efforts to finish harvesting spuds last week, there remained thousands of acres of potatoes left to be gathered as of Oct. 10. Temperatures dipped into the 20s the night of Oct. 9 preventing Upper Valley farmers from culling their crops.

Terry Wilcox reported his Mud Lake farm crews worked until midnight Oct. 9 salvaging potatoes.

“We lit a few bails of straw on fire in a few places. We had a skiff of snow which is pretty good insulation. We didn’t get much damage last night, but it will happen tonight (Oct. 10), I’m afraid,” he said. “Mother Nature has not been good to us this year.”

A late planting season coupled with cold weather, hurt potato farmers chances of successfully harvesting this year, said Wilcox. He recalled similar weather in 1985 when cold weather prevented the harvest.

“A lot of farmers lost their farms within the next year or two. It hasn’t been that bad since then,” he said.

Joseph Sagers, University of Idaho Extension educator for Jefferson and Clark counties, said multiple farmers were affected by the freeze last week. Most, he said, spent the night of Oct. 9 in the fields.

In Fremont County, Lance Ellis said that while Oct. 9 night temperatures proved frosty, potato farmers harvested a majority of their crops. “I think a lot of them got a good chunk of it dug. We won’t know for a few days if there was any damage done to the potatoes,” he said.

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