Tom Torkelson, of Torkelson Brothers farm in Grafton, North Dakota, has been farming potatoes for us for over 40 years, longer than almost any of our potato partners. Tom’s grandfather started farming in 1899, after immigrating from Norway, and began growing potatoes in the 1920s. Tom’s father and uncle began overseeing the operations, and Tom followed in their footsteps, taking over in 1978.
Our partnership with Torkelson Brothers goes back to the winter seasons of the 1980s, when Tom sold 10 truckloads of red potatoes per week to our soup plant in Paris, Texas.
Today, Tom’s high-quality, white chipping potatoes can be found in a crunchy, delicious bag of our Kettle Brand chips! And it’s all thanks to the hard work of Tom and his family.
Tom enlists the trusted help of his family—his sons, Andrew and Evan, and his wife, Deb—to ensure smooth operations on the farm day-to-day.
Andrew and Evan both received their degrees in agriculture and now help with the planning and daily upkeep of the family farm.
Deb manages the business side, like accounting and payroll, and is the self-proclaimed “gopher” of the group. “I run to get parts when needed and help everyone out as much as I can!” she says. But Deb added that her favorite part of her role is cultivating relationships with the farm’s seasonal employees during harvest time, “We treat them well so that they continue to come back.”
“When you work with your family everyday it’s a different dynamic. We work so closely and see each other so much more—it’s a good thing!”– Andrew Torkelson
“When you work with your family everyday it’s a different dynamic. We work so closely and see each other so much more—it’s a good thing!”
Torkelson Brothers cultivate in the Red River Valley, an area known for its quality soil. According to Tom, the high soil fertility of his farm allows them to apply relatively low rates of fertilizer. And the soil’s exceptional water holding capacity allows them to rely entirely on rainfall—avoiding dependence on irrigation—even through the 2021 crop year which had one of the worst droughts on record.
Tom says, “we can go a whole month without rainwater and the crops will hang on because of the fertile soil.”
But the Torkelson family also realizes that they need to continue investing in their soil’s health. That’s why, for more than five years now, they’ve been planting cover crops. According to Tom, the radishes and turnips that they plant every fall help to keep the soil in place while adding nutrients back into the soil. They also practice long crop rotations, planting potatoes every four years, to break up pest and disease cycles and keep the soil healthy.
“The soil is what makes or breaks us. It’s the most limited resource we work with—no one can just make more soil.” – Tom Torkelson
“The soil is what makes or breaks us. It’s the most limited resource we work with—no one can just make more soil.”
It’s not just soil and water that Torkelson Brothers is working to conserve. At the encouragement of Kettle Brand years ago, they now plant strips of wildflowers throughout their land as hosts for the local bee population. Did you know that North Dakota produces more honey than any other U.S. state?
In a small town in North Dakota, with a population of just over 4,000 people, the Torkelson family is working 365 days-a-year to grow and ship potatoes across the country, including to our Kettle Brand plant in Beloit, Wisconsin.
Want some insider info from the potato experts themselves? When you’re not eating their white chipping potatoes in the form of our thick, crunchy Kettle Brand chips, the Torkelson’s recommend using red potatoes for mashed or baked potatoes!
“A lot of restaurants don’t serve a red potato as a baked potato but—because of their density and the higher sugar amount in red potatoes—they definitely should!” – Deb Torkelson
You can taste the Torkelson family’s potatoes in our Kettle Brand chips. Learn more about Kettle Brand and find where to pick up a bag today.
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