Editor's Note: The article that follows is part of the 13th edition of The Packer 25 Profiles in Leadership. These reports offer some insight into what drives successful people in produce. Please congratulate these industry members when you see them and tell them to keep up the good work.
As the chief operating officer for Grand Forks, N.D.-based Black Gold Farms, which has growing operations in nearly a dozen states, John Halverson certainly has firsthand knowledge of what’s going on in different growing regions.
Now more than halfway through his year as chairman of the Potatoes USA board, Halverson has expanded that knowledge base, growing his appreciation of the work Potatoes USA does to boost consumption.
Halverson said his priority is to be a liaison between the growers and the board, highlighting programs about everything from the export market to Potato USA’s push to support the Salad Bars in Schools program.
“We have the most efficient food production system in the world, bar none, and we have opportunities all over the world,” Halverson said.
One of three siblings representing the fourth generation of Halverson potato growers, John Halverson’s home base is just north of the Arkansas border in Arbyrd, Mo.
Halverson moved to Missouri in 2000, recently married and fresh out of college, for what was to be a two- to three-year stint to set up the company’s red potato operation there.
His family — he and his wife have three daughters — has put down roots in the area, and the location is closer to other Black Gold operations, including Texas, Florida, and sweet potato production in Louisiana.
The company specializes in red potatoes, with southern states starting harvest in May, swinging up to Missouri in June and July, followed by the northern areas in September. Potatoes from southern states are also packed at the Arbyrd farm.
His brother Eric, Black Gold CEO, and sister Leah, director of new business development, represent the other fourth-generation members of the company, which started farming in 1928.
“We’ve chosen to focus on red potato production, to be the best that we can be, focusing on that space,” he said. “We kind of pride ourselves in being a grower-packer-shipper almost 12 months out of the year.”
Halverson said “passion” is the “first box to check” when working in agriculture.
“This is a fun place to be. At Black Gold, the other thing we pride ourselves on is that we want to farm better,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean I want to have a better crop than somebody else.”
That means doing “everything around that crop the right way,” Halverson said, from planting to harvest and customer-centric service.
Blair Richardson, president and CEO of Potatoes USA, said Halverson has shown a strong desire to learn more about the regional issues facing growers.
“Moreover, John has an exceptionally strong understanding of the many challenges facing farmers in some of the regions with smaller production, which is important as we make decisions on a national basis,” Richardson said.