EAGLE, Idaho — The Idaho Potato Commission is planning an all-day meeting featuring a lunch, an inspirational speaker and various presentations, hoping to draw a large percentage of the state’s growers to a common location.
The main purpose of the first Big Idaho Potato Meeting, scheduled for Nov. 14 at the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Event Center in Fort Hall, is to highlight how IPC invests marketing dollars collected through a grower checkoff fee.
Other Idaho potato organizations — including Potato Growers of Idaho, United Potato Growers of Idaho, Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative, Idaho Grower Shippers Association and Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry’s raw products group — have been encouraged to host their own meetings in Fort Hall on the morning of the meeting to help boost attendance.
“We’re just all so fragmented,” said IPC Commissioner James Hoff, of Idaho Falls. “Anymore, we’ve kind of lost some synergy with the growers as a whole, and I think this is a good way to start bringing that back.”
The event will replace IPC’s Whistle Stop Tour — a tradition IPC President and CEO Frank Muir started 14 years ago when he first joined the organization. Muir explained growers at the time weren’t satisfied that the commission was “keeping Idaho on the current trends,” so he hosted meetings in seven cities to inform them about IPC’s new programming.
Grower interest began to wane and Whistle Stop Tour meetings consolidated over time, until about six years ago, a single meeting in Idaho Falls remained.
Muir hopes to draw up to 500 growers to the new meeting, where participants and researchers will engage in a conversation about ways to improve the quality of Idaho potatoes that are shipped.
“I want all hands on deck when it comes to improving Idaho’s potato quality,” Muir said.
PGI, which works to further Idaho growers’ political interests, will reschedule its silent auction and awards for growers of the year to coordinate with the new meeting. PGI Executive Director Keith Esplin said the event has been hosted during the University of Idaho’s Potato Conference in Pocatello, which draws more farm managers and workers than growers, many of whom have conflicts.
“We’ve always been wishing for a grower banquet and a little better environment,” Esplin said. “A lot of vendors are taking out their customers during (the potato conference.)”
Idaho Potato Commission members Randy Hardy, of Oakley, said door prizes will be awarded, and he’s attempting to organize a political forum for the meeting featuring Idaho gubernatorial candidates.
“I think this is a really good opportunity to bring the industry together,” Hardy said. “We’ve got some topics like quality issues and other things we need to be addressing.”