J. R. SIMPLOT BUILDS A POTATO EMPIRE
Packed in farm cellars, potatoes were shipped from Twin Falls.
In fact, his first job outside the family operation was hauling potatoes out of the fields for a neighbor and into the town of Declo two miles away. It took three teams of horses to pull a wagonload of bagged potatoes from the field and, once on the highway, two teams continued the trip to town. Under these conditions, it was possible to make two trips per day. Wagonloads contained up to 2,400 pounds of potatoes.
The marketing of potatoes for the grower was very unsophisticated at that time. It was necessary for the farmer to load the bags of potatoes on a railroad boxcar, pad and insulate the load with straw, and if the shipment was made in freezing weather, the shipper would accompany the load of potatoes and keep charcoal stoves burning in the car to prevent freezing. The railroad provided a seat in the caboose for the owner of the potatoes, and Jack Simplot recalls his father making a trip to Kansas City with such a shipment. His father returned stating that the enterprise had been a disaster. After selling the potatoes in Kansas City, he had only enough money for the cost of the freight and a ticket home.
Despite the difficulties involved, Idaho farmers continued to grow potatoes and were gradually finding some acceptance for them in Eastern markets. Young Jack Simplot found the challenge and the enterprise of farming and business more exciting than school, and at an early age was growing potatoes on his own on a tract of land that he rented from Lindsey Maggert, at that time the most prominent potato grower in the Declo area.
One of the turning points in the Simplot career came when Jack accompanied Lindsey Maggert and two other friends, the Atchley brothers, on a late-season, elk-hunting trip. The party journeyed by a horse-drawn bobsled up the Warm River to the boundary of Yellowstone Park. The snow fell heavily most of the four or five days that they were in the area, and Simplot's energy and adventurous spirit were demonstrated when he bagged the quota of elk for the entire party.
As they were journeying back home, Jack recalled that someone was manufacturing an electrically powered potato sorter in Shelley, Idaho. He discussed the matter with Lindsey Maggert, and the two agreed to seek out the factory and have a look at the innovation. They found the shop where the machines were being manufactured. Before leaving, Jack Simplot and Lindsey Maggert had purchased one of the potato sorters in partnership. After the machine had been manufactured, it was loaded on a boxcar and shipped to Declo by railroad.