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ZipUSA: 83422
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ZipUSA: 83422

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By Tom DworetzkyPhotographs by Nina Berman

Billionaires, Mormon potato farmers, and skateboarders share an uncommon home in 83422.

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The days have grown short in Driggs, Idaho, and Paris Penfold, a third-generation farmer, agrees to take a break from harvesting his 800 acres (300 hectares) of seed potatoes and packing them into a half dozen of the giant Quonset-hut cellars that pepper the valley. He leads me into one of the dark cellars like a proud parent. Standing before a towering mound of spuds, I can feel the heat coming off them.

"They're alive," Penfold says. "We have to manage the temperature with computers to keep them from sprouting in here." Without ventilation the temperature of the potato pile would go up a full ten degrees in a week. In the spring these disease-free seed potatoes will be shipped to growers in the Pacific Northwest, to be cut—one eye per piece—for planting.

Before that, though, children in this Mormon stronghold will be let off school for two weeks to help with the harvest, and Penfold will enlist the aid of his second cousin, Clair Hillman, for the 14th year in a row. Clair, 69 now, has the wiry strength of a man half that age. He's been trying to retire for years, "but Paris won't let me," he says with an easy laugh as we stand in the soft, brown dirt by the huge crossover machine he's been driving all day. The crossover, bouncing side to side over the deeply rutted field, digs up potatoes from one row and dumps them on top of another, so the harvester can suck up a mouthful at once and conveyor-belt them into potato trucks driving slowly alongside. The work sends a haze of dust into the thin mountain air.

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In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
Driggs is in the heart of the 30-mile- (50-kilometer-) long, 15-mile- (24-kilometer-) wide Teton Valley in Idaho, historically the first fall migration staging area of the greater sandhill cranes that have bred and summered in Yellowstone National Park to the northeast. Every September the sandhills leave Yellowstone's mountain meadows and wetlands, fly over the Grand Tetons, and stop in the Teton Basin's grain fields and farmlands to fuel up for their 800-mile (1,000-kilometer) flight south to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, their winter home. The eighth annual Teton Valley count, done in September 2002, showed that only 1,504 sandhill cranes stopped there before flying to join the entire Rocky Mountain population at their staging area in Colorado.

Wildlife biologists have observed that because of housing development and other human disturbance in the Teton Valley, the number of cranes making an autumn stopover there in recent years has fallen by more than half. The cranes have adapted to the environmental disturbances by flying farther west for their fall feeding period, and many valley residents miss the presence of large flocks of the elegant, red-crowned birds, characterized by naturalist Aldo Leopold as "a symbol of untamable past."

Groups such as Valley Advocates for Responsible Development, the Teton Regional Land Trust, and the regional Greater Yellowstone Coalition are spearheading efforts to preserve some 15,500 acres (6,270 hectares) of wetlands in the Teton River drainage, an ecological system that has been assessed at the level of greatest vulnerability and irreplaceability in the entire Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

—Nancie Majkowski

Did You Know?

Related Links
Teton Valley Chamber of Commerce
This website is a gateway to learning about life on "the quiet side of the Tetons."

Spud Drive-In Theater
View a closeup of the theater's famous giant concrete potato in its setting against the Grand Tetons.

Penfold Farms
View articles on the operation of this farm, which has cultivated seed potatoes for over 65 years.

Teton Arts Council
Examples of the work of dozens of Teton Valley artists may be viewed on this site.

Teton Seed Potato Management Area
View a map of the Teton Valley area, renowned for high-quality potato seed stock.

Teton Regional Land Trust
Read about this nonprofit conservation organization's efforts to protect fish and wildlife habitats in the Teton River watershed via a voluntary easement program with landowners.

Valley Advocates for Responsible Development
This organization encourages citizen interest in Teton County's water issues.


Anderson, Jeanne, ed., and others. Spindrift: Stories of the Teton Basin. Teton Arts Council, 2000.

Fanselow, Julie. Idaho: Off the Beaten Path. 2000.

Gottberg, John. Idaho. Compass American Guides, 2001.

Marin, Rob. "Leave My Town Out of Your 'Top 10.' " High Country News, April 29, 2002. Available online at

Smith, Michael D., and Richard S. Krannich. " 'Culture Clash' Revisited: Newcomer and Longer-term Residents' Attitudes Toward Land Use, Development, and Environmental Issues in Rural Communities in the Rocky Mountain West." Rural Sociology (September 2000), 396-421.


NGS Resources
"The Hot Zones: Driggs, Idaho. Wilder Side of the Tetons." National Geographic Adventure (July/August 2001). Available online at

Schmidt, Jeremy, and Thomas Schmidt. "Yellowstone Ecosystem." In Guide to America's Outdoors: Northern Rockies. National Geographic Society, 2000.

Hodgson, Bryan. "Grand Teton," National Geographic (February 1995), 119-40.

Conniff, Richard. "Federal Lands," National Geographic (February 1994), 2-39.

Rhoades, Robert E. "The Incredible Potato," National Geographic (May 1982), 688-94.

Ellis, William S. "High-stepping Idaho," National Geographic (March 1973), 290-317.

Clark, D. Worth. "Idaho Made the Desert Bloom," National Geographic (June 1944), 641-88.

Reed, John C., and Philip J. Shenon. "Down Idaho's River of No Return," National Geographic (July 1936), 94-136. Goode, Richard Urquhart. "The Idaho and Montana Boundary Line," National Geographic (January 1900), 23-9.

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