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Published January 14, 2014, 04:17 PM

Honors for ND potato industry

Two North Dakota growers and a scientist win awards at recent Potato Expo.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

When Carl Hoverson began farming in the 1970s, some farmers still used moldboard plows.

“We kept fields super black in those days,” says Hoverson, a Larimore, N.D., farmer. “Now we leave residue to keep the dirt from blowing.”

Hoverson uses a number of modern farming practices to protect the environment — good stewardship that won him and Hoverson Farms the National Potato Council’s 2013 Environmental Stewardship Award.

He received the award at the recent Potato Expo in San Antonio. Two other North Dakotans also took top honors at the event, the nation’s largest annual gathering of potato growers and industry professionals.

Gregg Halvorson was named 2013 Potato Man for All Seasons, an award from The Packer and in conjunction with the National Potato Council.

Halvorson is president and CEO of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Black Gold Farms. He and his company have won a number of industry awards.

Gary Secor also was honored at the Potato Expo, receiving the National Potato Council’s Meritorious Service Award.

Secor is a plant pathologist at North Dakota State University.

Sons and grandsons

Hoverson, whose potatoes are processed by Simplot, says he was nominated for the stewardship award by his peers last summer.

Later, as part of the competition for the award, he supplied a list of his stewardship practices.

The National Potato Council gives the annual award to farmers who reduce the risk of pesticides on their farm without sacrificing yields or quality.

Hoverson says modern tools allow his farm to apply chemicals more efficiently. One example:

“We’re into precision farming. We’ve gridded all our land. Some fields need more fertilizer, some need less. The old way, we applied the same amount (to each of them). There were a lot of excesses,” he says.

“Now we’ve grid-tested everything. We put on fertilizer where it’s needed, and we don’t put it on where it’s not,” he says.

Protecting land and the environment is important, he says.

“This farm is for my sons and grandsons, too,” Hoverson says.

Other ND winners

Halvorson is a third-generation farmer. His family business, launched in 1928, has more than quadrupled in size in the past decade.

In a 2012 interview with Agweek, Halvorson noted that several members of his family are involved in the business and that he considers it a family farm.

Black Gold Farms has grown to more than 20,000 acres of potatoes with 11 separate farms in 11 states, as well as three packing facilities in the United States.

Black Gold Farms grows potatoes for chips, as well as table stock potatoes, sweet potatoes and peanuts, according to information from the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks, Minn.

Secor’s areas of professional work have been the diagnosis and management of potato and sugar beet diseases and variety development of potatoes, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.

His work is concentrated on late blight management, seed treatment, harvest dry rot, Fusarium dry rot, zebra chip and blemish diseases of potatoes, as well as disease-free potato seed production, the growers association says.