Wash. potato farmers donate 20 tons of potatoes to Ritzville community


RITZVILLE, Wash. — Potato growers in Washington state have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Production has slowed down and some are at a standstill. Despite the circumstances, they wanted to give back to the community.

“You should absolutely love potatoes,” said grower Marvin Wollman with Warden Hutterian. “Everybody should love potatoes.”

According to the Washington state Potato Commission, more than three billion pounds of potatoes are in storage.

“Now that they’re not being eaten in restaurants, they’re not open — all of a sudden there’s potatoes leftover,” Wollman explained.

90% of all eastern Washington frozen potatoes are used in restaurants and other food service establishments. Many of the farmers have spent more than $2,000 per acre before planting the potatoes.

“They already bought their seed and they lost the contracts for this year,” said Rep. Mary Dye, (R) Pomeroy, “and they cut the production by 50%.”

On Wednesday morning, cars lined up in Ritzville, waiting to get their hands on free bags of potatoes. The farmers washed and bagged them at their own expense.

“I’m glad there’s some kids getting food,” Wollman said.

As for the future, Wollman isn’t positive what it looks like.

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen, but it seems the longer we have our whole economy shut down — restaurants are closed, the longer this keeps up, the worse this is going to get,” he said. “There’s always a plan B. We always come up with stuff and you know, every day that plan probably changes because life changes, so yeah, there’s — we have ideas.”

Potatoes will head to local charities, food banks and churches in the next two to three weeks. On Thursday, they’ll head to Moses Lake to give away more potatoes.