May 30, 2023
Potatoes USA elects board members, committee chairs

Potatoes USA has elected nine members to its 2023-24 executive committee. The new members, elected at the organization’s annual meeting in March, represent operations of all sizes from coast to coast.

International marketing committee

Shelley Olsen of Othello, Washington, and Mike Larsen of Declo, Idaho, are the new co-chairs of the international marketing committee, focused on increasing U.S. potato exports across all product types.

Shelley Olsen (left) and Mike Larsen are the new co-chairs of Potato USA’s international marketing committee. Photo: Provided

This marks Olsen’s sixth year serving on the board and third on the executive committee. Olsen works under two family-owned companies, LJ Olsen and Two O’s Inc., growing potatoes for frozen processing. She also serves on the Washington State Potato Commission marketing and industry affairs committee.

Larsen is in his sixth year on the board and second year on the executive committee. As the general manager of Mart Group LLC, operating as Mart Produce, he helps growers contract, grow and deliver potatoes, manages new varieties, and develops future markets. Larsen is a lifetime member of the Leadership Idaho Agriculture and Chairman of the Potato Association of America’s marketing and utilization committee.

Domestic marketing committee

Leah Halverson of Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Les Alderete of Monte Vista, Colorado, are the new co-chairs of the domestic marketing committee, which oversees the Potatoes USA consumer, nutrition, retail, ingredient, and foodservice marketing programs.

Leah Halverson (left) and Les Alderete are the new co-chairs of the domestic marketing committee. Photo: Provided

In her fifth year on the board and third on the executive committee, Halverson has two decades of experience in the potato industry. She currently serves as the director of marketing at Black Gold Farms, a family-owned, fourth-generation farm specializing in chipping potatoes.

Alderete, a fourth-year board member serving his first executive committee term, is general manager at Skyline Potato, a prominent shipping operation in southwest Colorado.

Industry outreach committee

Ed Staunton of Tulelake, California, and Dennis Wright of Kennewick, Washington, are the new outreach committee co-chairs.

Staunton is served as co-chair for the international marketing committee in 2020. A third-generation potato farmer, he is co-manager and partner of Staunton Farms LP.

He is on the California Potato Research Advisory Board. From 2007 to 2019, he served on the National Potato Council’s board and was on the United Potato Growers of America board when it was first formed.

Ed Staunton (left) Dennis Wright are the new outreach committee co-chairs. Photo: Provided

Wright, in his fourth year as a board member and first year on the executive committee, is a general manager at AgriNorthwest, a large farm operating in the Columbia Basin of Washington and Oregon that sustainably produces potatoes, onions, corn, wheat, sweet corn, carrots, and peas.

The industry outreach committee oversees industry communications.

Research committee

Jennifer Gogan of Houlton, Maine, and Trever Belnap of Hamer, Idaho, are the new research committee co-chairs. The research committee participates in developing national potato research priorities and promotes industry support for selected potato research projects.

Jennifer Gogan (left) and Trever Belnap are the new research committee co-chairs. Photo: Provided

Gogan, assistant manager and part owner of Miller Farms LLC, has served on the board for four years and on the executive committee for three.

She currently serves on the Maine Potato Board’s Research Committee and Seed Executive Board.

This is Belnap’s first year back on the board after serving from 2015-2021.

A third-generation farmer, Belnap is the general manager of Ball Brothers Produce and holds positions with the Idaho-Eastern Oregon marketing committee, United Potato Growers of Idaho, and IDA GRO, a regional cooperative for potato growers.

Finance and policy committee

Jeff Jennings of Camden, North Carolina, was reappointed for his sixth year on the board and fourth as chair of the finance and policy committee.

Jeff Jennings is chair of the finance and policy committee. Photo: Provided

Jennings is the president of John E. Ferebee Farming, a family operation producing white, red, and yellow potatoes.

He is also president of the Camden County, North Carolina Farm Bureau and a member of the North Carolina Potato Association.

The finance and policy committee oversees Potatoes USA’s financial information and makes recommendations on finance and policy-related matters, including the annual budget.

Potatoes USA, established in 1971, is the national marketing and promotion board representing U.S. growers and importers.






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