Bryan Bender is a fourth-generation potato grower continuing the family tradition in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The farm began with Bender’s great-grandfather who had a farm in the 1920s where what is now the local high school. Then Bender’s grandfather bought a farm about two miles away from the original location. These two initial family farms led to the purchase of the Sandy Mountain Farm in 1965 where a pond was added and potatoes were planted. The third generation, David (Bender’s father) and Charlie (Bender’s uncle) expanded the operation and made the farm what it is today. Now, Bender has joined the family business and continues to expand upon what the generations before him started. Bender’s father still works on the farm along with Bender’s niece, Brooke, and Bender’s mother.
What’s unique about the Pennsylvania farm is the cooperative Bender belongs to with other Pennsylvania potato growers to fulfill larger orders. Bender’s farm is on 450 acres of land, with 140 acres being potatoes. This makes the farm a smaller operation in comparison to others throughout the country, but through being part of the cooperative, orders can still be fulfilled. Bender follows a three-year rotation to build soil health in between harvesting potatoes.
A lot must happen for potatoes to end up in the grocery store. For example, good weather is crucial for harvest and can severely affect the timing of harvest. Machines must be running and people working together to get potatoes from the field to the store. While most of Bender’s potatoes go to chips, the ones that don’t go to the packing shed where they are washed and stored and later sold to local grocery stores, food distributors, and local restaurants.