On this week’s episode of This is the Gospel, Ryan Cranney of Cranney Farms shares how one decision to donate more than two million pounds of potatoes led to an unlikely correspondence with a woman in Kenya and the miracles that have since followed.
We grow potatoes for both the process industry, which is companies that make French fries, and then we also do fresh pack where we're part-owners in the company that packs potatoes into boxes and bags that go to grocery stores and restaurants.
This last year, 2019, was a great year. We were super excited at the end of the harvest, we had a great crop, things are looking very good and the economy was doing well. People were out and about eating at restaurants. And there actually was a really good demand for potatoes, specifically. And there also was a little bit of a tight supply of potatoes and so potato prices looked like they were going to be at record levels. And so we had a lot of optimism going into the first part of 2020.
And then sometime around the end of January, in the very first part of February, I started to hear a little bit about this virus. I remember, right at the very beginning, having kind of a sick feeling in my gut that this could be something very serious, both for the world and for our company.
So the first thing that we saw was the food service side, the restaurants really took a beating as they began to close down. And so we saw our customers' demand go from very strong to almost a complete stop. I felt a sense of almost panic at the time. I felt like that we could be in financial jeopardy, that potentially it could take farms out of business.
At this time, we were praying as a family that we would be able to sustain through this difficult time, asking for Heavenly Father's help to get through it. I also asked many times, "What is it we need to learn from this experience? What are the correct decisions might be that we continue to support our family here for generations to come?"
(Ryan Cranney with his family. Photo credit Ryan Cranney.)
So I guess April time is planting time, but it's also the time of the year where we have still have potatoes in storage from the previous year's harvest. Usually, we can either sell those to other farmers or we can take those to the dehydrated market make dehydrated flakes. And so I made the usual phone calls to the dehydrating companies. They just laughed at me, they're like, "We're not buying anything right now. We don't see anything opening up." Farmers were cutting back because of their contracts and what they were going to plant so there was no one to sell the potatoes to.
They were beautiful potatoes. I really struggled with what to do with them. And the other only option that we had was to be to feed them to cattle. So that's kind of what our initial intent would be—to dump them on the ground, [and] we could feed them later to our own cows.
(Approximately two million pounds of seed potatoes on Ryan Cranney's farm. Photo credit Ryan Cranney.)
But as we dumped them there, I looked at how pretty the potatoes were. And when we were all said and done, we had about 2 million pounds of potatoes. And if you figure about, you know, a half-pound is a potato, there's probably 4 million potatoes there. I'm like, “Surely there's got to be something that would be a better use than cattle feed.” So I pondered that over for a part of a day and I had the distinct impression to give some of them away.
I knew that some people lost their jobs, maybe struggling financially. So I just made a post on Facebook along the lines of, "Due to COVID, we're gonna have to dump some potatoes, you're welcome to come get some if you'd like some." Really, I had no idea that people will take that as seriously as they did. I thought maybe a few friends, neighbors would come gather a few up and the rest would go to cattle feed. But I was wrong, majorly wrong.