MALIN — Attendees of an historical and agricultural bus tour on Friday morning got up close with Malin’s past, present and future.
Individuals walked through one of the city’s newest businesses, Cascade Potato, a plant that processes potatoes into meal to be made into dog food for a Nevada company. The company is affiliated with Colorado Gourmet Potato, according to a previous H&N story. The Klamath Falls plant is the third such location, joining Fresno and Bakersfield, California.
“We’ve got potatoes and natural gas, and those are the two things they really needed,” said Malin Mayor Gary Zieg, of the company.
The plant, which opened in June 2018 and has a dozen employees, is a sign to city leaders that Malin is experiencing an economic revival of sorts. It was a key stop along the tour of Malin’s past and present as they continue to celebrate a four-day anniversary of the city’s settlement 110 years ago. In the same week, they’re celebrating Independence Day and the 75th anniversary of Malin Park.
Plant manager and a descendant of 1900’s Czech settlers, Steve Rajnus took individuals through out the facility. He detailed the process of cleaning, dicing and grinding up the potatoes into a dehydrated substance that looks a lot like cornmeal. The product is then shipped off to several states and is made into dog food for a Nevada company.
“Around 24 tons a day, plus or minus, is what we do,” Rajnus told the tour group.
He said the potato comes in 80% water and comes out of the dryer having only about 7 or 8% water.
“We don’t have any waste,” Rajnus said. “We use the whole potato.”
Potatoes come out of the dryer looking like “cornmeal” after reaching temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit during the dehydration process.
“Most of it before would have went to cow feed,” he added, of the cull potatoes.
While on the bus headed toward the facility, Malin Mayor Gary Zieg stood up proudly to talk about the facility.
“We’re kinda proud of it,” Zieg said with a smile.
In 2017, Zieg said the company came to Malin’s city council and asked if there was a piece of industrial land that they could use to dehydrate potatoes. They bought eight acres for $44,000, according to a previous story. The plant opened up in June 2018.
Zieg served as a potato inspector for 18 years and said back in 1993-94, the Basin peaked its potato production at about 35,000 acres.
Rajnus estimates now there were at least 13,000 acres of potatoes grown in the Basin in 2018, half of them chippers — also known as spuds that produce potato chips.
Both Rajnus and Zieg believe chipper potatoes have helped Klamath County remain competitive in the potato market.
A dehydration plant helps in that effort, too.
Zieg admits that any business expansion in a small town of 810 people like Malin is to be celebrated.
“You don’t get a lot of new businesses in Malin,” Zieg said.
The last several years in Malin have shown that is turning around for Malin, however.
The renovated Broadway Theater is a community hub, where movies are shown and gatherings are planned. A park is planned to go in on the other side of the theater, as well.
Bartholomew spoke to those on the tour about the lot between Malin Country Diner and Malin Farmer’s Market where flag poles have been installed, and a new park and murals by painter Chris Young will be underway shortly.
He also took attendees through a detailed history of times past in Malin, including a stop by the elementary school, which once housed Malin High School before it became Lost River Junior/Senior High School.
“Right now we have about 140 students, grades K-6 that attend here,” Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew also added the field behind the current elementary school was used for the 1955 state championship football game, a contest Malin won.
Other notable stops along the tour included Malin’s airport, authorized by Harry S. Truman in 1949. The airport also includes a tribute to Ehle Reber, a Malin native, who was killed in action over Germany in World War II.
In addition to tours, organizers also put on a street dance Saturday night with a beer garden and music from the Kurt Van Meter Band.
A community barbecue is planned following a 10 a.m. church service at the Broadway Theater today to round out the celebration.