Now in its third year, the Teton Farm Tour, hosted by the Teton Soil Conservation District, brought together interested residents with some of the knowledgeable producers who are making a living in agriculture here.

At the fairgrounds, attendees heard about commercial and backyard beekeeping, then watched a demonstration of the TSCD’s compact community seeder, which is available to rent for a low price. Then everyone piled into buses to take a field trip over to Bates to tour SunRain Potato Varieties, a 1,500-acre operation that grows both seed and commercial potatoes.

Along for the ride and able to answer just about any question were several farmers and ranchers, as well as representatives from local conservation nonprofits and state agencies.

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SunRain VP Kelly Stoddard, left, and farm manager Jaden Poulson, dig up a few miniature potatoes of the Lollipop variety, which has red skin and white flesh. Poulson is experimenting with drip irrigation on one portion of the farm, and said the savings in water and labor through the season make up for the starting cost and set-up of the system.

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Sara Warhol, the ATV and mowing specialist for Warhol Services, demonstrates the Teton Soil Conservation District’s community seeder. The district first purchased a tractor-drawn no-till drill in 2015 with fundraising support from Friends of the Teton River, but found that the demand from small landowners was high enough that a second, smaller implement was necessary. The device can be rented by the day from the TSCD and used to plant cover crops, forage, or native grasses without disturbing the top soil. “When we got this seeder, we didn’t know how exactly it worked,” said Tina Dean of the TSCD. “The community as a whole has put together our cumulative knowledge on how to use it.”

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Dallin Howell is a third-generation commercial beekeeper with a transitory 5,000-hive operation. In summer the Howell bees run for honey in eastern Idaho, enjoying the alfalfa, mustard, and radish crops of Teton Valley, and in the summer they pollinate almond trees in California. The industry is facing a lot of challenges, particularly mite infestations.

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Tour attendees walk through the massive potato warehouse at SunRain Potato Varieties. They’re wearing booties to ensure that the facility remains free of contaminants or disease. Although SunRain is a seed potato producer, demand for miniature commercial potatoes has grown so much that 80 percent of the Teton Valley operation’s crops are minis. “We’ve found our niche in the market,” said Kelly Stoddard, VP of operations. While yields are lower here due to the harsh winters, potatoes that come out of the valley are quite hardy and have the best color he’s ever seen, Stoddard added.