Irving Farms named McCain Foods champion potato grower

13 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Irving Farms of Caribou has been named the 2009-10 McCain Foods Champion Potato Grower for Maine.

The McCain Top 10 Potato Growers were recognized at the annual McCain Grower Barbecue at the Aroostook County Shiners’ Club in Presque Isle on Aug 24.

Champion grower selection is based on the highest standing average of three delivery categories. The delivery categories include field direct, winter storage and refrigerated storage. For their grower storage deliveries Irving Farms delivered just shy of 100 percent first place color while 31 percent of the Irving potatoes averaged 10 ounces or larger.

The Irving Family has been farming in the Caribou area for five generations. The Irvings raise approximately 750 acres of potatoes and 750 acres of grain. Day-to-day operations are managed by Scott, Steve, Robbie and Jeff. All are very much active participants in the Maine Potato Industry. They credit the farming experience of their father Robert Irving as having been invaluable to the farm’s success.

Scott, Jeff, Steve and Robbie were presented with a personal trophy and a cash award of $4,200. McCain Foods determines the Top 10 growers by monitoring the processing quality of potatoes delivered to its Easton plant. A sample from each load is tested for quality factors such as size, defect level, specific gravity and color. Delivery date is also assessed and a point value is assigned.

In the category of Field Direct Delivery, B.D. Grass & Sons claimed the top spot. This brother operation from Blaine is run by Brent and Neil Grass and this is their fifth time on the Top 10 list in the past 10 years. Second place in this category went to Paul Lagerstrom of Presque Isle while third place went to Robert Hallett of Caribou.

The top grower for Winter Storage Delivery went to Bell Brothers of Mars Hill. This three-generation farm family includes Gary, Brian, Carter and Kramer. The Bells have a long tradition with the McCain Top 10 list, having earned the distinction 19 times. Second place in this category went to Landeen Farms of New Sweden, which is operated by Michael, Sheldon and Shawn Landeen. Gaylen and Brent Flewelling of Easton took third place.

In the Refrigerated Storage Category, top grower was awarded to Tom Good of Monticello. Tom has been growing for McCain’s since 1994 and this will be is sixth time receiving a Top 10 award. Second place in this category went to Buck Farms of Mapleton; this family farm is operated by Bruce, Brent, Barry and Jared Buck. Mike Hagan and sons Chris and Jamie, of Houlton finished in third place.

Each Top 10 Grower was honored with a cash award of $1,000 and presented with a plaque in recognition of their accomplishment.

McCain Foods USA, Senior Field Rep Brianne Ketchum O’Leary was also honored for her work in completing the McCain Certified Agronomist Training Program and was presented with a plaque recognizing her achievement.

Growers chosen to participate in the SYSCO Sustainability Audit were presented with a certificate thanking them for their efforts. Growers that took part in the audit include: Albert Fitzpatrick of Houlton, Donald Fitzpatrick of Houlton, Mike, Chris and Jaime Hagan of Houlton, and Dana and Jon Wright of Littleton.

McCain personnel on hand to congratulate the Top 10 Growers were McCain Foods Limited Chairman Allison McCain, Vice President of Agriculture for McCain Foods USA Laurie Jecha-Beard, Director of Agriculture for McCain Foods USA Rich Mita, Director of Agronomy for McCain Foods USA Leigh Morrow, Easton Plant Manager Dave McKenney and Field Department Manager Bart Bradbury.

The 2010 Potato Queens in attendance for the industry event included: Brittany Mosher, the Maine Potato Queen; Michaela Powers, the Teen Miss Potato Queen; Elena Ford, the Junior Miss Potato Queen; Madison Bearden, the Pre-Teen Potato Queen; and Amber Moir, the Little Miss Maine Potato Queen.