The McPheeters Help Put the Crunch in Frito-Lay Chips


Whether your guilty pleasure is a bag of Doritos, a handful of Cheetos or a bowl of Tostitos, chances are you've tried a local farm family's corn. The McPheeters of Gothenburg help put the crunch in Frito–Lay chips.

Not just any farmer can do what the McPheeters do, they have to grow according to Frito-Lay guidelines, taking extra care in every corn stalk grown.

"When I was young I couldn't wait to get out in the spring and get on a tractor," said Burton McPheeters. He started with a few hundred acres, but now his family has grown and so has his land.

"You see the fruits of your labor every single day and every year is different: there are different challenges, there’s growing technology all the time. It's changing so much we can hardly keep up," said Kerry McPheeters, who is currently a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"It's gratifying that children you work with want to come do the same thing you have been doing, it must look like fun," said farmer Scott McPheeters. His kids will be fifth generation farmers. He also is on the KAAPA Ethanol Board.

It isn't just any corn they grow; they've put the corn in corn chips ever since a Frito-Lay facility was built nearby in 1995. The six big storage bins in Gothenburg can’t hold all of the corn for chips, so the McPheeters' have on-farm storage which then gets delivered by rail or trucks throughout the year.

"All of the corn that goes to make all of the chips west of the Mississippi comes from the collection point here in Gothenburg. Primarily they're interested in having a supply throughout the year and so we contract some for every month from basically October through the following July. We contract for a certain amount of bushels at a certain basis compared to the board of trade and if the board of trade goes up or down then we can price it according to that basis," explained Scott.

Frito-Lay uses about 13 million bushels, that’s one-one-thousandth of the entire corn crop. They use more yellow corn in Frito's, more white corn in Tostitos and Doritos have a mix. "Nacho cheese is probably my favorite," said Kerry.

Although the chips themselves are made elsewhere, it all starts with more than a hundred farmers near Gothenburg. "A lot of people don't know where their corn goes. It just goes to the elevator and, well not sure, it just gets distributed. So, we know where ours is and it's cool," said Kerry.

Frito-Lays do not provide the McPheeters with any free chips, but they do allow the family to try out the newest kinds of chips before they are out on the shelves in grocery stores.