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Published November 23, 2011, 09:54 AM

Red River Valley potato pioneer dies in Maine

Ed Plissey, the first regional agricultural extension potato specialist in the Red River Valley, died last week in Maine. He was 77 when he died Nov. 14 and had recently been diagnosed with leukemia, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Ed Plissey, the first regional agricultural extension potato specialist in the Red River Valley, died last week in Maine.

He was 77 when he died Nov. 14 and had recently been diagnosed with leukemia, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks.

“Ed did a lot of testing and research and teaching,” said Duane Preston. “Ed had a very unique way, he was very good at extension education and writing and making research real practical in the field. That’s what we do in extension, is extend the message.”

Preston succeeded Plissey in 1977 and held the position for 31 years.

“I miss him, we had lots of fun,” Preston said. “I last saw him last year in Florida at the (National Potato Council) meeting.”

Plissey was the first potato extension specialist holding a joint position from both North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota when he was appointed in 1968, Preston said.

Such a joint extension slot made research and field work in the Valley more practical, as the same spuds were grown on both sides of the Red River.

Since then, sugar beet extension specialists and others hold such joint positions, Preston said.

Nick David, who succeeded Preston, resigned from the job in January. A new potato specialist should be hired by next spring, said Ted Kreis, marketing director for the NPPGA.

Plissey was raised on a farm near Washburn, Maine and earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and master’s degrees in plant pathology and botany from the University of Maine in Orono.

He also completed graduate work in ecology at UND and was known as a national expert on potato production, according to the NPPGA.

While working in the Red River Valley, Plissey headed the Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra board of directors, was known for bringing “potatoes by the ton,” to local food pantries and was active in his church and the local Rotary Club.

Plissey left the Valley to return home, Preston said.

Plissey served as executive director of the Maine Potato Commission and in 1985 was appointed professor and extension specialist at the University of Maine, where in 1997 he was awarded emeritus status. He had kept actively involved in the potato industry since.

Plissey’s survivors include his wife of 54 years, Marilyn Bonney Plissey and their five children.

Memorials can be made to the Roque Bluffs Community Outreach Program, P.O. Box 471, Roque Bluffs, ME 04654 or to the Down East Community Hospital, 11 Hospital Drive, Machias, ME 04654.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send email to slee@gfherald.com.

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