PIONEERS ESTABLISH FARMS IN FRANKLIN COUNTY
The irrigation shovel was symbolic of early western farming.
This is the first-recorded planting of potatoes in Idaho in an area where the settlers remained and the crop is still grown to some extent today. The planting was accomplished three years before the Idaho Territory was organized.
Of utmost importance to the potato industry was the discovery of gold in Idaho in 1860. Much of the early potato production was used to feed miners and fields of potatoes were grown to accommodate the men in lead, gold, and silver camps located in the Wood River District, Silver City, and the Boise Basin.
As early as 1875, the Mormons were shipping potatoes to California. The Deseret Evening News of December 2, 1875, reprinted an article from the San Francisco Chronicle titled "Brigham's Potatoes." "That the farmers of Utah (and Idaho) can hope to compete with the potato raisers of this state, when the rates of freight are taken into consideration, would seem absurd were it not for the fact that the co-op is the parent of an innumerable number of little co-ops scattered all through the Territory and that the whole is connected and banded with the Church government in such a manner as to give the main institution peculiar facilities for gathering cheaply the products of Utah (and Idaho) soil. "This is said to be the first speculation-if a Gentile term can be applied to a venture of the inhabitants of Zion undertaken in this particular community, and it is a bold one. Over 2,000 sacks have already reached this city, and 100 carloads more, 60 of which are on the way, are coming. The potatoes are known as the Neshannock, and it is, of course, claimed that they possess some particular excellence that those of California growth lack."
Again on January 20, 1876, Deseret Evening News reported: "During the past season Z.C.M.I. (Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution) shipped to San Francisco, Cal-2,571,466 pounds of potatoes, which cost, delivered at Ogden, $23,045.10. This is a fair commencement, being but the inaugural season of the potato trade with California. This branch of exportation to California was solely conducted by Z.C.M.I., no other house having engaged in it."
Early Idaho newspapers encouraged growing potatoes and the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman of October 27, 1881, even went so far as to suggest "evaporation" so that fruit and vegetables could "reduce to one-fourth of their original bulk and lower the cost of hauling the product to markets."