Ritchey Toevs of American Falls was named Grower of the Year, and Clen and Emma Atchley of Ashton were named Seed Growers of the Year at the annual Big Idaho Potato Harvest Meeting, which the state Potato Commission hosted Nov. 13 in Fort Hall.
Potato Growers of Idaho Executive Director Keith Esplin said Toevs “is a leader in the industry, a very forward thinker,” and the Atchleys “have been involved on the cutting edge of the seed industry for many years.”
Potato Grower Magazine gave out the awards. PGI and the Idaho Crop Improvement Association, which administers the state’s seed certification program, named the recipients.
Toevs just completed two three-year terms on the commission. The second-generation farmer grows about 1,100 irrigated acres of potatoes for processing and on additional ground grows rotation crops wheat, barley, mustard and sugar beets. The farm started in 1946.
“It was a surprise, and we appreciate the recognition,” he said. But it is the entire industry that should be honored — “the resilience and the cooperative spirit of the whole industry.”
Toevs said his farm emphasizes “looking for research-based solutions and decision making” in a host of areas, from water and fertility management to variety selection.
“In the ’80s, we farmed by the field,” he said. “Now we farm by the square foot, with a lot of prescription application.”
“We are part of a very sophisticated and efficient supply system,” Toevs said. “We have suppliers that meet our needs, and in turn we need to work to anticipate the needs of our customers.”
The Atchleys farm about 5,000 irrigated acres and 2,500 acres of dry land. They grow potato seed, wheat and wheat seed and canola seed. At their Ashton Hi-Tech Seed greenhouse operation, they raise mini-tubers in a protected environment.
The Atchleys have worked within the industry to improve cooperation and research for the benefit of growers, said Emma Atchley, who is also a state Board of Education member. They continuously evaluate processes, equipment and infrastructure to operate as efficiently as possible, “and make our inputs more effective, and our outputs better,” she said.
“We are very conscious of sources of inputs, particularly seed,” Atchley said. “We have vertically integrated; we produce our own mini-tuber potatoes, which are lab (greenhouse)-grown and essentially disease-free.”
Their daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Clay Pickard, who own C&L Ranches, “came back to the farm, and have made a big difference in our operation and our success,” she said.
Laura, who manages the potato operation, grew up on the farm and is a fourth-generation producer.