North Dakota State Seed Department
Director, Potato Program
Originally printed in the May 2021 issue of Produce Business.
Sather is part of an exclusive club, and an expert within it. He doesn’t say this to brag… “it’s just something you work into, but as far as seed potato certification agencies in the U.S., there are only 14 of us, and not very many of my colleagues that do what I do out there,” he says of 40-plus years honing his skills in this specialized field.
From Minnesota originally, Sather grew up on a farm that had nothing to do with potatoes (“We did corn and soybeans, also a little bit of alfalfa and feeder cattle”), but his first job after graduating from the University of Idaho was doing research in the certified seed potato industry, and from there, he was hooked. Besides the people, “I really enjoyed what I was doing simply because there was a lot of field work, and being outside is always good.”
In 2020, North Dakota planted about 72,000 acres of potatoes, including 14,000 acres of certified seed, and Sather oversees the inspection process. “A lot of that is for what we affectionally call Red River Valley potatoes that are grown in our Red River Valley for table production and table consumption. They have a beautiful deep red color, and wash plants in North Dakota are distributing round red potatoes across the country. So that should jingle a bell or two with retailers,” he says.
“My priority is potatoes, and you certainly do have articles in Produce Business about the potato industry and different aspects of that, and I enjoy reading them. But I’m also interested in other crops and the people involved in those cropping systems, looking at how the industry markets them.”
When he has the time, Sather regularly fills out the PB Quiz. “It’s really a unique way to dig into your magazine and find new information. Oh, this is cool, so that’s how this works… Again, I’m a mono crop, but I want to know what’s going on in the rest of agriculture and the produce world as well.”
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