Whether you are a resident of Idaho or just have a passing knowledge of the state without ever actually having been in its borders, you are probably well aware that the number one industry of Idaho is agricultural in nature. While this is not the only thing happening in Idaho on an economic or industrial scale and there is even a thriving industry based around the production and distribution of technology, Idaho certainly depends on what it grows in the ground and what people are willing to buy of that growth. You probably already know at least a few of the things that are grown in Idaho. The potato is obviously a big part of what makes Idaho unique and whatever you feel about that, it is the truth. Everyone loves potatoes, and everyone loves the potatoes that are grown specifically in Idaho. But potatoes are not the only plant and food coming out of Idaho. It is impossible to survive, either as a person or as an economically relevant state, on potatoes alone. And so, Idaho is a diverse place that grows a bunch of different things. What things might the state be growing? Let me give you a little introduction to the staples of Idaho.
To start with, something surprising. You might not have known but hops for beer are a pretty common sight when you are driving along roads that come up against Idaho fields. Of course, hops are only a small part of the process for making good beer, but they are important and Idaho farmers can grow some great stock when it comes to hops. In fact, beer is a pretty popular drink in Idaho right now and not because people are excited to be drinking the mass-manufactured swill that the larger companies go in for producing. Yes, those kinds of beer have their qualities, but they do not stack up against the craft beers that are being made from Idaho’s hops. So yes, one of the most popular things to grow in Idaho is not even a food, but a precursor to an alcoholic beverage. Of course, considering potatoes can eventually become vodka, that is true of multiple crops in Idaho.
Sugar beets are also a pretty popular crop in Idaho and they also very rarely make it into anything resembling a dish. Just like you would never want to eat straight hops, you will probably never eat a straight sugar beet. Instead, the sugar beet is part of the process for creating that carbohydrate we all know and love, sugar. In fact, you might have guessed as much given the name of the crop. There are several refining facilities in Idaho that take the sugar beet harvest and turn it into sugar, which might make its way into any number of different things. The beet refining facilities, despite being full of beets, are also interesting to look at and might be open to a visit. You might think beets are boring but the process they go through can be quite interesting, assuming the manufacturing industry has some kind of draw to you. It can be quite fascinating to see something as simple and ugly as a beet become the ever lusted after sugar.
But yes, the potato is almost certainly the staple crop of Idaho. Even if it were to be overtaken by any other crop in sheer economic power, it would probably not step down from its throne of importance. It is the state vegetable after all and even if the state were to stop growing it all together for some reason, it would still hold a place in Idaho’s heart. It just has too much history with the state. Idaho has also done a lot to innovate in the field of the potato over the last century. One of the largest and most famous companies in Idaho is Simplot, though it used to be known as the J. R. Simplot Company. Simplot is the reason french fries are so easily acquired and at the price you can get them. They pioneered the method of sending out frozen french fries so that restaurants could always have something on hand to use.
Then there are the things that Idaho grows which are not so unique to Idaho, but which almost every state grows in at least some capacity. The best examples of this are probably the wheat, hey, and barely that Idaho grows. Do not get me wrong, these crops are very important and are grown in large quantities, but they do not quite have the same special appeal is the potato or sugar beet. Where this is not as much the case is with seeds. Idaho is the largest distributor of seeds to other states and countries that cannot provide their own. Then there are beans, fruits, and mint that are all grown in Idaho and kept to high standards. Similar to the quality of the hops grown in Idaho there is also a thriving vineyard community. Wine is on the rise in Idaho and it is some really good stuff.
It is also important to mention that no single crop quite outstrips what the dairy industry does for Idaho. The potato is very important along with all of the others but there are a lot of cows in Idaho and they are producing all kinds of different dairy products that are used across the state and country. There is more than one cow for every person in the state and they are constantly at work making cream and cheese and milk and all manner of other dairies. As you might expect, this means that beef is an important commodity in Idaho. The Idaho bovine is a versatile animal and probably more useful to the state than the potato, but it is the potato that has won the heart of the Gem State.