The Idahoans

Idaho Growers of the Year Dan & Jann Moss

Published online: Dec 02, 2017 Grower of the Month Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears in the 2017 Idaho Annual issue of Potato Grower.

Dan Moss was not born in Idaho. He didn’t grow up in Idaho. He didn’t even begin his farming career in Idaho. But rest assured, Dan Moss is Idahoan, through and through.

Moss was born and raised on a family farm in northern Utah. But as the subdivisions crept farther and farther up the Wasatch Range, it became increasingly clear that continuing to farm in the region would only get more difficult. So 37 years ago, Moss and his wife Jann packed up the family and headed north on I-84, where the fertile, much less populated soils of the Magic Valley beckoned.

The move, to put it mildly, has paid off. Today, Moss Farms comprises five management areas in three counties: two in the Burley-Rupert area on either side of the Snake River; the west farm in Bliss; the east farm in Raft River; and a seed farm in Sublett. In 2007, they purchased Arrowhead Potato Company, through which all their table-stock potatoes (about one-third of the Mosses’ total potato production) are packed and shipped. The rest—excluding seed—are contracted to McCain, Simplot and Gem State Processing.

Dan and Jann’s son Ryan is the primary day-to-day operator of the farm these days, but Dan keeps plenty busy. He remains intimately involved with the farm and packing shed, and he’s neck-deep in helping promote the potato industry—and the Idaho brand—through his involvement in industry trade organizations. A former grower-commissioner on the Idaho Potato Commission and president of the National Potato Council, Moss currently sits on the board of Potatoes USA and the USDA’s Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee. Moss has always been a proponent of industry involvement and its positive impact on his own operation. And he practices what he preaches in that regard. 

Moss loves what he and his family have built in southern Idaho. On a sunny September afternoon at the Raft River farm, he is visibly proud as truckloads of potatoes come through the transloading site. Ryan’s oldest son, Deven, has returned to the farm full-time and is busy making sure each piece of machinery runs smoothly as freshly dug potatoes make their way across multiple conveyors. A couple hundred yards away, Deven’s brother Austin operates the harvester. Youngest brother Alex, a senior at Declo High, is still at school, but you can bet he’ll head this way just as soon as that last bell rings. Through the haze of dust, you can see on the faces of the Moss family just how excited they are, not only to be harvesting potatoes, but to be doing it together.

“I think a big reason farms last through generational transitions,” Moss says, “is a genuine pride and love of the land. Once you’ve shoved your hands down in the dirt and those spuds come out, or watch a sugarbeet truck fill up in minutes, it’s hard to get enough of that.

“You can look out at your field and there’s snow on it, and the next thing you know you’re working the ground and planting your seed,” he continues. “Those plants are your little babies all summer; you’re taking care of them and watching them grow. Then harvest time comes. The whole season is rewarding because  you really start with nothing, then you get to see things progress.”

The Mosses have seen a lot of progress over the years—on their farm, in their family, and in the industry. A lot of folks would say the Mosses have done more than their fair share to see that progress through. They would be right.

“Dan told me, ‘[Potato Grower’s Grower of the Year] award is what they give everyone when they’re about ready to die,’” Jann says with a laugh. “I told him to tell them not to give it to us; we’ve got a lot of living left to do!”

For all the life lived and yet to be lived by Dan and Jann Moss, the Idaho potato industry couldn’t be luckier.