Recently my business partner and friend Doug Turner brought me a grocery sack full of big baker potatoes. Doug is a farm kid from Declo, Idaho and his family is farms there today. At the end of their harvest this year the Turners had "leftovers." The concept of leftover is new to me, and my wheat farming background is far different. With potatoes, once you fill your contract, the market is closed. It was a good yield, the Turners filled their contract, and the leftovers would be chopped into cattle feed. I thanked Doug for the spuds, and we went about our business.
The next Sunday, while listening to a particularly good sermon, I got to thinking that a couple boxes of Doug's potatoes could help feed the folks at the Church's monthly Friendship Feast. This dinner is offered every Thursday evening at one of four downtown churches in Boise. The feast is geared toward feeding the local homeless population, and always in need of donations to help defray the cost of ever increasing need. There are noticeably more homeless people in Boise with cardboard signs at more and more major intersections over this past year. If you look closely, there is now almost always a person in "line" behind them at the corner waiting his or her turn. Knowing that I can do little to help and being a bit of a tightwad anyway, I rarely give to panhandlers. Every time I see someone at the corner, I always wish I could do something, and then the light changes and I drive away whispering "bless him," or "bless her." I called Doug. Doug called Danny. "My brother says you can have all you want. Come and get them," read Doug's text. Now the wheels were turning.
I met with Cindy Todeschi at the Cathedral of the Rockies to inquire about bringing a few boxes of potatoes for the next feast. She loved the idea and immediately offered help distribute them to the other churches involved in the Feast.
Thus was born "The Potato Run."
I figured I could make a trip to south Idaho, Doug and I needed to go for business anyway, and we could stay with at the Turner place in Declo. I could pick up some boxes from a grocery store buddy of mine in Burley, fill up as many as I could hold in my Suburban and return to Boise, all for $0 in additional costs.
John Stokes is a grocer friend with stores Burley and Aberdeen. John is by far the busiest person I know. By a mile. He and I have become good friends over the years as we share an interest, some would say obsession with bio-fuel. Truth be told, obsession fits. I called John to ask about setting aside a few boxes for me, told him when I was coming etc. John being John, he immediately wanted to help. John being John, he immediately wanted to make the project much bigger. John being John, he was ready with the shirt off his back. "You know what you should do Pat?" he asked, "take my flatbed trailer and haul home pallets full." You see, John from time to time needs a big flatbed trailer to move inventory between stores. This is where the corporate partnership starts to take shape. My inventioneering company, Walking J, could donate the Suburban, the driver (myself), the vegetable oil bio-fuel, Stokes Food Center could donate the trailer. Now we needed some real boxes. I contacted Mike Grasmick, President of Grasmick Produce to see if I could borrow some pallets and watermelon boxes. "Absolutely Pat, take all you want." I decided that I would attempt to bring home 8 pallets full of potatoes.
"I don't think we can handle that many potatoes Pat," said Cindy, "but I know someone who can." She then told me how she'd just been out at the Idaho Foodbank Warehouse the previous week, and that they had a real shortage on fresh produce. One call to the Foodbank, and we were under way. All the parts were lined up, I just needed to close the deal.
The wind howls in late winter in southern Idaho. I left during the evening on Wednesday so that we could load the potatoes in the morning and I could deliver them back to Boise by the time my kids were ready for dinner. Doug was already at his parent's place in Declo and had everything lined up for morning when I arrived. The front end loader to load spuds, his brother to operate the loader etc.
After a morning waiting for the temperature to warm up (I learned you can't drive potatoes in freezing temperatures), we hooked on to our free loaner trailer from John, and went out to the cellar. The wind was really howling, and opening a potato cellar door in wind like that was tricky since it tried to fly out of your hands and smash anything in its path. We pulled the "Burb" into the cellar, assembled the boxes and started to load spuds! In fact, we loaded 7,069 pounds of spuds.