EAGLE, Idaho — The first woman to ever represent growers on the Idaho Potato Commission’s board of directors has grown accustomed to breaking gender barriers in agriculture.
IPC announced Mary Hasenoehrl, 60, as its newest commissioner during the recent Idaho Grower Shippers Association annual conference in Sun Valley.
She’s been appointed by Gov. Butch Otter as just the second woman to serve on the board, joining current board member Peggy Grover, an official with Rexburg-based BenchMark Potatoes who represents fresh shippers.
“It’s important to have a diverse group of people because we all come from different backgrounds and have a different approach to things,” Hasenoehrl said.
Hasenoerhl’s IPC district stretches from Western Idaho to the Northern Panhandle. She splits time between living in Lewiston, where her sons lease her dryland native grass seed farm, and Wilder, where she helps her husband, Doug Gross, raise potatoes and other crops.
Hasenoehrl was raised on a small farm in Midvale. When she first started high school, FFA didn’t allow girls to formally participate, so she served as a chapter “sweetheart.” The organization opted to include girls before she graduated, and she was elected as a state officer in 1974.
She went on to earn a certificate in respiratory therapy, though she admits her dream was to become an agricultural teacher and an FFA adviser.
“At the time that was just unheard of,” she said.
In the mid-1980s, Hasenoerhl participated in an organization that lobbied on behalf of agricultural issues such as water availability and the Farm Bill, called Idaho Women for Agriculture. She eventually became its president.
She also raised a family and took University of Idaho classes in marketing and communications before taking a job as regional director for Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. In 2004, she became director of advancement with the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where she worked for eight years, before agreeing to run the advancement office at Lewis and Clark State College. She retired from the college in 2013.
Three months after she started that job, her first husband was killed in a farming accident. About a year after her husband’s death, Gross, lost his wife. Hasenoerhl sent him a note letting him know that she understood what he was enduring and that he was in her prayers. They were married in 2014.
“One of the things that attracted me to him was his love of agriculture,” she said.
Hasenoerhl was also elected in 2010 as the first female commissioner with the Port of Lewiston, where she continues working toward restoring container shipments out of the Port of Portland.
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir believes Hasenoehrl brings the commission “a wealth of experience in her background in terms of the boards she’s served on.” Muir also noted her perspective is important as women represent IPC’s target audience.
Commissioners typically serve two, three-year terms. Other current board members include Grover, Lynn Wilcox, Dan Nakamura, Tommy Brown, James Hoff, Ritchey Toevs, Randy Hardy and Nick Blanksma. Wilcox, with Wilcox Fresh in Rexburg, is the new chairman.