Alvernaz co-founded grower-shipper California Sweet Potato Growers Co-op with several partners in 1963. The company now is run by his sons, Jim and Ben, and grandson Matthew Alvernaz.
Joe Alvernaz, who was active in Livingston community organizations, served as president of the California Sweet Potato Council, as well as the U.S. Sweet Potato Council, of which he was a director for 10 years.
Alvernaz was the first California farmer to attend the National Sweet Potato Convention. He also served as president of the Merced County Farm Bureau and was a board member of the Nisei Farmers League.
Alvernaz enlisted in the U.S. Marines in World War II. His nickname, “Sweet Potato Joe” was given to him by his fellow Marine and close friend, the late actor Brian Keith.
Preceding Alvernaz in death was his wife of 64 years, Florence. She died in 2006.
Survivors include five children, a sister, 17 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
“Joe did a lot for the sweet potato industry,” said Sarah Alvernaz, wife of Matthew Alvernaz and general manager of California Sweet Potato Growers. “He’s definitely one of the pioneers, for sure.”
Technology continues to be a focus at Iota, La.-based sweet potato grower-shipper Garber Farms, said Matt Garber, partner.
Garber said the company continues to add “computer controls” to its warehouse space.
LSU AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station
The Louisiana State University AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station released two new varieties in 2013, said Tara Smith, extension specialist with the Chase-based organization.
Breeder Don La Bonte unveiled the Burgandy, a variety with red skin and “deep-orange” flesh, which Smith described as having “exceptional quality and a high sucrose content that is comparable to the Evangeline variety” and is “extra sweet.” She noted it “stores extremely well.”
The second variety, known as LA 06-52, has not yet been named, Smith said.
“This variety has strong uniformity with shape qualities and an attractive cooper skin,” she said, noting that it also has a mild flavor and is suited to baking.
The center also has hired a new sweet potato specialist, Louisiana native Mavis Finger, who joined the organization in August.
Finger will take up former responsibilities of Smith, who accepted a new position as Northeast regional director with the LSU AgCenter in February 2013. In her new job, Smith oversees research and extension programs for 12 parishes and three research stations in the region, including the Sweet Potato Research Station.