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Washington grower’s latest position is chairman of United

“Slowing down” for 72-year-old Allen Floyd means taking on the responsibilities of the chairman of the United Potato Growers of America for 2008. The Othello, Wash., grower and packer helped form the United co-op in Washington and Oregon and is hoping that he can help the national group continue to grow. Albert Wada, the Idaho grower who helped start the Idaho and national co-ops, handed the reigns over the Floyd at the United meeting in January.

Floyd is the general manager and president for Harvest Fresh Produce Co., a venture he’s a part owner of with two other partners. He’s also one of four partners in HF Farms, the growing operation that supplies the packing shed.

His uncle started Harvest Fresh in 1969, and two years later Floyd bought into the business. Today, the packing shed ships Russet Norkotahs under its own HF Farms label and for Potandon under the Green Giant label. The company packs cartons, specialty packs, consumer mesh and poly bags and in bulk, all in a facility that is certified by the American Institute of Baking. The potatoes are shipped nationwide on truck and rail, to Canada and to Asia.

A certified seed cutting operation also is available to local growers, according to the Harvest Fresh Web site.

The farming side of the business grows all Norkotahs on about 1,000 acres between Pasco and Quincy in the Columbia Basin. Winter breaks in February in the basin and planting usually starts the beginning of March. Growers of red varieties and other specialty potatoes start planting in February, but HF Farms was planning on starting to plant its Norkotahs March 1. The farm usually begins harvest in early mid-September and finishes up by the end of October. HF Farms has a farm manager who handles all of the production issues, so Floyd doesn’t have get his hands dirty too often – he spends most of his days in the Othello offices managing sales and shipments from the packing shed.

He first got involved in helping guide the future of the potato industry with the Washington State Potato Commission, which he’s served on for 12 years. He previously served as chairman, and his final term as a commissioner ends this year.

Floyd’s involvement with the United co-op started even before the Washington chapter was founded. Three years ago, Albert Wada visited Moses Lake and presented his plan for a nationwide cooperative that would help growers match the supply with the demand. Some Washington growers got up to leave, but Floyd stood up and asked everyone to stay and listen to what Wada had to say. Many did, and from there the United Potato Growers of Washington-Oregon was formed. He served as chairman of that co-op and as vice chairman of the national co-op’s executive committee.

Although he said he wanted to slow down some, Floyd is glad to be a part of the United group and would gladly represent the co-op at national industry shows. One of his first trips was in late February to Las Vegas for the International Restaurant Show. There he represented the national co-op – and the potato industry as a whole – to more than 30,000 attendees from 26 countries. The show has doubled in size in recent years, with attendees that hail from the foodservice sector that ranges from restaurants and nightclubs to cruise ships and airlines.

“I want to continue the growth and momentum that Albert (Wada) got started,” Floyd said.

“It’s amazing how far we’ve come. I tell everyone how Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we’ve only been here for three years.”

Originally posted Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2008

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