BLACKFOOT — More potatoes are produced in Bingham County than any other county in Idaho and the United States and when it comes to spuds, Bingham is the center of the potato universe.
But Bingham County is not a one-trick pony when it comes to agriculture and the county ranks near the top for many other farm commodities produced in Idaho.
“There is a lot of agriculture in Bingham County,” says Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Bryan Searle, a potato farmer in the county. “It’s definitely the largest potato producing area in the U.S. and there is a lot of pride in the potatoes that are grown here, but the county is also very diverse when it comes to agriculture.”
According to the Idaho Potato Commission, farmers in Bingham County produced 57,110 acres of potatoes last year, almost twice as much as the state’s No. 2 spud-producing county, Power, which produced a total of 30,424 acres of potatoes in 2020.
But Bingham County last year also ranked high in the state among several other farm commodities, including wheat, sugar beets, barley, hay and beef cattle.
“Some counties rank high in just one or two commodities,” says Bingham County Farm Bureau President Ralph Dalley, a rancher from Blackfoot. “Bingham County is definitely potatoes but we also rank pretty high in a lot of commodities. We’re a pretty diverse county as far as agriculture goes.”
Bingham County ranks No. 1 in Idaho in total farm-gate revenue from crops. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the county’s farmers brought in $352 million in farm-gate revenue from crops in 2017.
That placed Bingham as the state’s most important county when it comes to revenue from crops, ahead of No. 2 Canyon County, which produced $314 million in farm-gate revenue from crops in 2017.
Add in farm-gate revenue from livestock and Bingham County ranked No. 6 in Idaho in total farm-gate revenue in Idaho in 2017 ($453 million).
The only counties ahead of them, with the exception of Canyon, were heavily tilted toward revenue from dairy.
Agriculture is big in Bingham County and so are the farms.
According to the Census of Ag, there were 1,177 farms in Bingham County in 2017 and the average sized-farm in the county was 793 acres, far more than the statewide average of 468 acres.
But while the county is heavily agricultural, a large and growing part of the population there is disconnected from agriculture and has no real idea what farming and ranching are about and how important the industry is to the county’s and state’s economy, Dalley says.
That’s why the main focus of the Bingham County Farm Bureau organization is on education, starting with the county’s youth, he adds.
“The main focus of our county Farm Bureau is the youth,” Dalley says. “We spend a lot of money on the youth in Bingham County.”
“We want to make sure people keep knowing where their food really comes from and get people involved in agriculture,” he adds. “We want people to know and understand that we’re out there producing food and it’s not an easy task to put food on the table.”
Bingham County Farm Bureau provides $20,000 a year in scholarship money to county residents. The organization also provides another $10,000 in agricultural mini grants to all teachers and agricultural and FFA programs to be used in the classroom.
BCFB also provides $6,000 to place farm-related books in school libraries. A sticker in each book lets kids know they were provided by the local Farm Bureau organization.
The county Farm Bureau financially supports kids who participate in the annual 4-H live animal sales.
The county Farm Bureau also heavily supports the annual Moreland Adventure Days event at Moreland Elementary School. Included in the all-day event are activities that teach children about farming and ranching.
Among other things, BCFB volunteers help teach the kids how to make butter, grind wheat and milk a plastic cow.
One of the added benefits of this event is that the parents who attend it also learn about agriculture, says Sara Erb, a Bingham County Farm Bureau board member who helps coordinate the farm-related activities.
“It’s an eye-opening experience for those parents and they learn so much,” she said.
BCFB also teams up with Idaho Farm Bureau Federation and other county Farm Bureau organizations to run a booth at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, which attracts upward of 250,000 people each year.
As people, even in Bingham County, get further removed from agriculture, “We feel it’s important to continue to remind them about how vital agriculture is and where their food really comes from,” Ralph Dalley says. “That’s why we focus on the many things that we do to keep reminding people, ‘We’re still out there raising your food.’”