ORRSTOWN– Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined potato growers, potato chip manufacturers and potato lovers on the historic Bender Potato Farm in Orrstown, Franklin County to celebrate the centennial of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers and their tasty, nutritious contributions to our state economy.
“Pennsylvania and potatoes go hand in hand,” Redding said. “What would a Pennsylvania fair be without french fries, or the ‘Snack Capital of the U.S.’ without potato chips, or a Thanksgiving feast without a heap of buttery, whipped mashed potatoes?
“Bryan Bender and the other farmers who make up the Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers have fed our families and our economy for generations, and sustained our communities through their generosity,” he continued. “They continue to feed our progress, employing cutting-edge methods and equipment. Congratulations on a proud centennial and a bright future.”
With 83,000 tons of potatoes produced on 5,400 acres across Pennsylvania, the cooperative’s growers supply retail, food service and potato chip manufacturers, feeding $15 million in annual sales. They supply the 24 chip manufacturing plants that have earned our state its “Snack Food Capital of the U.S.” title.
Since 2020, the cooperative has supplied more than 12.6 million pounds of potatoes through food service partners to food insecure families through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
In partnership with the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences the group has conducted potato variety research, with its membership contributing $50,000 annually to support the work that benefits consumers and potato growers statewide.
“This 100-year celebration honors the 28 hardworking potato-grower farm families in our cooperative,” said Nathan Tallman, president of the cooperative. “It also recognizes the leadership and dedication of the farm families who have come before us to keep Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers operating for a century.”
Since 2019, the PA Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $430,000 to the cooperative through Specialty Crop Block Grants, and more than $130,000 for its work promoting potatoes through the Pennsylvania Agricultural Product, Promotion, Education, and Export Promotion Matching Grant.
The organization is a mainstay at the annual PA Farm Show every January, serving thousands of potato donuts, 12 tons of fresh cut fries, six tons of baked potatoes and
hundreds of pierogies to hungry guests. The cooperative sponsors the chef demonstrations and events on the PA Preferred® Culinary Connection stage on “Tater Tuesday,” and greeting guests with potato-centric education and entertainment in their booth every year.