Idaho Grower Of The Year: Heward Farming Brotherhood

PGI chooses 2008 Idaho Grower of the Year

Published in the February 2009 Issue Published online: Feb 28, 2009 Nancy I. Butler
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HewardAt the start of 1976, Willie Heward eagerly planned for a potato crop on his 120 acres in Burley, Idaho.

Together with his three brothers, Heward grew up farming and dairying. When their father decided it was time to retire they developed a new farm and partnership which is still going strong.

"I take care of the potatoes," said Heward. "My brother Lorn manages the sugarbeet crop; brother Alan handles the dairy, and brother Lynn works out the business/paperwork details. We all manage the grains, corn and alfalfa . we seem to get along good. It is working out great and there are no plans to separate at this point."

Today the 2,200-acre farm has 650-700 acres of potatoes. Varieties include Western Russets, Rangers and Burbanks.

Heward begins planting around April 10 or 15 and on into May 1. Harvest typically starts Sept. 15 and takes about a month to complete. "We have been averaging around 400 cwt/acre. Sometimes we are better and sometimes we aren't quite there, but we try to be at 400."

Heward buys his seed locally to cut down on the costs of freight.

"We get seed from Idaho growers," he said. "We support Mike Telford, and for the Western variety we buy from the Steeds. Mark Johnson from Picabo is where we get the Ranger seed."

Leadership

Heward has worked with the Boy Scouts of America for over 20 years and says that has been rewarding and educational. He has also served for two terms as the state representative on the USPB. Heward brought a positive essence to the PGI as district chairman for 10 years, also as secretary and for five years as vice chairman over numerous responsibilities.

Living an active life with church attendance and activities, rearing a family and being a devoted husband has given Heward the smile he constantly wears. When asked what makes a successful business/operation, he says, "Make more than you spend."

"I also think that by being consistent in your dealings with people you work with is important. Representing yourself as a good and upright person helps a lot. You earn a good reputation by how you deal with people. Even when you have a bad time people will work with you. because it seems like we all have ups and downs in business."

Valuable words of wisdom we can all live with.

Upbringing

Born and reared in the Burley area, Heward helped his dad run the small family farm. "My dad was a school teacher and we, my brothers and sisters and I, did the chores, and when it was time for dad to retire from farming he just gave us the equipment and turned us loose. That is how we got started. Dad gave us the opportunity."

Heward met and married Sherrie, a farmer's daughter from "the other side of the river." Her dad grew potatoes, which was a perfect help as he and Sherrie ventured off into their own farming career. They have reared five children and now enjoy the "fruits of their labors" by way of three grandchildren.

For fun Heward goes to the dairy. He enjoys the cows and all that goes into the dairy production. He likes to travel around with his wife in the winter and take snow-machine and four-wheeler trips. He claims not to have many bad habits, maybe just being a workaholic.

He and his sons have always had dogs on the farm. In fact, a small four-legged pup named Honey rides around with him in his pickup.

Right now the biggest worries the Hewards have is in making sure they don't have open potatoes for next year. Waiting for contracts is a bit nerve-wracking as Heward doesn't want to grow too many potatoes that aren't committed.

Also, the cost of fuel and fertilizer has doubled and they hope to see those costs stabilize and keep coming down.

"With the economics of the world right now we have to be careful," said Heward. He says we can be thankful that the fuel costs have come down so people can pay their heating and fuel bills.

Heward says, "I like doing what I am doing. I have built a lot of relationships, friends and associates in the industry. It has been good to us and at this point I am not ready to retire or change.

"We all need to stick together to make it all work. We need to support each other in this industry."

Currently, the potato industry is in a bit of a changing process and in the long run Heward will still grow potatoes. He says, "We still like them on our plates. But it is looking like maybe it is a little different process than what we have been under."

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