Moses Lake, WA, to Pinetop, AZ
Gwendena from White Mountain Apache Tribe
By Olivia Groell
June 28, 2020
The Farmlink Project has now helped deliver 80,000 pounds potatoes to the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Pinetop, Arizona on June 4th and June 24th. Tat-On, Inc., a marketing agent that operates to represent different grows of potatoes and onions, connected The Farmlink Project to the surplus of potatoes.
Tat-On, a company based in Moses Lake, Washington, partners with farms in Washington state and Canada. Tat-On’s farms encompass 1,600 acres of potatoes and 1,400 acres of onions. Will Sutherland, president of Tat-On, Inc., recognized Desert Ridge Packaging, LLC, as well as farmers, for their involvement and sacrifices in the deals. Sutherland said that Desert Ridge Packaging “put profitable time on hold to maximize return to growers,” and instead used their earnings to compensate their workers and handle packaging expenses. Sutherland helped unite Desert Ridge Packaging and The Farmlink Project, exhibiting the teamwork between each party involved.
COVID-19’s disruption of the food industry has had a significant impact on farmers, as Sutherland detailed. As restaurants, educational establishments, and other organizations have closed, an enormous supply of harvested produce has been left behind. Sutherland estimated that places like Tat-On, farms, and other components of the agriculture sector were working at “30-40 percent capacity” earlier on in the pandemic, but this is beginning to increase as the United States reopens. He acknowledged the variability of this number, as potatoes are more “stable” than a food like lettuce which is prominent in the restaurant industry. Still, the need for potatoes has gone down as restaurants’ demand for french fries has declined, leaving many potatoes to go to waste.
Luckily, instead of otherwise being used for cattle feed, set back in the dirt, or discarded, some of these potatoes are delivered to food banks and those who are hungry and don’t have the financial means to buy them. The Farmlink Project and other programs and organizations helping to reduce food insecurity have made this happen by collaborating with companies like Tat-On to, as Will Sutherland said, “get potatoes to people who need them.”