Courtesy of Wilcox Fresh
REXBURG, Idaho — Miami couple Alan Kluger and Amy Dean offered to take their 8-year-old granddaughter anywhere in the world on vacation.
The Idaho Potato Commission loves the unlikely choice made by the young girl, Dagny Jerles. Her dream vacation was to witness Idaho’s potato harvest.
“It’s my favorite food,” Jerles explained of her decision.
Jerles believes potatoes should be served simply — baked with just a dab of butter — and she’s convinced the best potatoes come from Idaho.
Thanks to some special treatment from the IPC and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Jerles and her grandparents say their brief time in the Gem State was memorable.
Jerles is the oldest of the children in her extended family. Kluger and Dean have vowed to take all of their grandkids on a trip of their choosing, once they turn 8. The timing of potato harvest worked out well for Jerles, who had a break from school Oct. 5-6 for a Jewish holiday, called Sukkot.
Upon hearing of their granddaughter’s choice, the grandparents contacted Idaho First Lady Lori Otter’s chief of staff and the IPC to help them coordinate the trip.
“We operate under the theory that if you don’t ask, it won’t happen,” Dean said.
They were led on a tour of the Idaho Capitol and spent a morning with the governor and his staff, who gave Dagny children’s books about Idaho authored by the First Lady.
The family dined at a restaurant befitting their theme — the Boise Fry Company — and spent some time with IPC staff in Eagle, Idaho. IPC President and CEO Frank Muir gave Dagny so much swag the family had no space in their car and had to send it home by Federal Express.
Based on the experience, Muir said he sees potential for Idaho to market potato harvest as a tourist destination. Muir believes out-of-state consumers regard Idaho as a “mystical” and “beautiful” place where potatoes are grown, and he notes people are becoming increasingly interested in learning how their food is produced.
Muir said Dagny’s interest in Idaho potatoes affirms “that our brand marketing is reaching the next generation — a very young generation — and is reinforcing what the current generation knows. Idaho potatoes are a special food.”
Simply driving through Idaho was fascinating to Kluger, who was amazed to pass “humongous trucks the size of a four-story building just filled from top to bottom with potatoes.”
IPC Chairman Lynn Wilcox, a fresh potato grower near Rexburg, invited the family to witness potatoes being dug on the Rexburg Bench, and to watch spuds being packed in his company’s fresh warehouse. They also got to fill a 15-pound box with spuds they selected from the field themselves. The highlight came when Dagny got to ride in a harvester.
“It was so state-of-the-art,” Kluger said. “What a spectacular business these guys have.”
Derek Peterson, vice president of sales at Wilcox Fresh, said the company has hosted several tours this season, mostly for buyers.
“This is a first for us, having a family on vacation wanting to see our operation like that,” Peterson said. “This really helps us understand just how powerful (the Idaho) brand is.”
Being from Florida, Dean can also appreciate the strength of the Florida orange brand. But she acknowledges people also associate Florida with Disney World and sandy beaches.
“When you think of potatoes, you automatically think of Idaho,” Dean said.