Pennsylvania potato legacy Nathan Tallman heads state cooperative
Nathan Tallman is a Pennsylvania potato legacy. He grew up on a potato farm, helping his father, Bill Tallman, at the family farm in Tower City. In addition, both of Nathan’s grandfathers — George Tallman and Roy Snyder — also grew spuds in the Keystone state.
It’s only fitting that last year Nathan Tallman became the chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Co-Operative Potato Growers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prosperity of state farmers, a position once held by his grandfather, George Tallman. Nathan holds a degree in agricultural business management from Penn State University, is a proud PSU alum and had a long stint in foodservice sales before joining PCOOPG.
1: Could you share a little about your background?
I grew up in a small town called Bethel, which is located between Allentown and Harrisburg. I spent a good bit of my time helping my father, Bill Tallman, on the family farm. He worked with his dad, George Tallman, and siblings at Tallman Farms in Tower City. I always enjoyed riding on the back of the potato planter while my father did the spring potato planting and working with him at the potato storage stacking the pile in the fall. I was always amazed by the mountain of potatoes my family could produce.
2: What does your job entail?
I supply Pennsylvania chip manufacturers with potatoes each week through contracts with in-state growers, as well as ones in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maine, Indiana, Michigan, New York and Canada. I also contract Pennsylvania-grown potatoes for Keystone Potato Products, our processing and dehy plant in which the co-operative is the second-largest stakeholder. Also, I coordinate tablestock sales to retailers and source seed potatoes for growers and customers. Another thing is coordinating our food stand at the Pennsylvania Farm Show each January. The co-operative has made baked potatoes, fresh-cut french fries and our famous potato doughnuts for decades.
3: What is your biggest goal for the next 12 months?
Increase planted potato acreage in Pennsylvania, find new profitable business for state growers and support the growers with up-to-date industry topics and market information. Plus, encourage a potato growers’ community, so growers communicate among themselves by sharing ideas of what is working and what is not.
4: What are the biggest challenges facing growers and shippers in Pennsylvania?
One of our biggest challenges is climate and soil conditions; we have an abundance of stones and mud lumps. Last year was the wettest year in Pennsylvania on record (124 years). Another obstacle is our lack of modern updated storage and potato infrastructure. It is also challenging for our growers to find part-time, seasonal labor and day-to-day qualified farm labor.
5: If you weren’t in the potato industry, what would you be doing?
I would definitely be in foodservice produce sales. I really enjoyed that side of the business in my previous career. The way produce constantly moves around the country amazes me. When markets get tight, it’s interesting to watch prices climb on the different commodities.
6: What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?
Mashed potatoes made from Pennsylvania-grown round white varieties, such as Reba, Norwis, Superior and Eva are the best! My mother’s mashed potatoes with butter and ham gravy are my all-time favorite.
7: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my wonderful wife, Katie, and our (small) son, Carter William Tallman (his initials are CWT). I look forward to sharing my love of farming and growing potatoes with him. I like working on our small farm in Kempton. We raise hay, soybeans, corn, wheat and, of course, potatoes! I also love following Penn State football.
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