Young Guns

Published online: Jul 17, 2019 Articles, Grower of the Month Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears in the July 2019 issue of Potato Grower. 

It’s not easy to get an appointment with Jason Davenport. The dude is a jet-setter: One week he was in San Francisco running a half-marathon. The next he was meeting with customers in Honduras. But once we finally got a chance to visit with the founder and president of Allied Potato, we were in for a pretty good story.

Jason Davenport is still a young man, but he has already accrued at least a career’s worth of experience. He grew up on a family farm in Melba, Idaho, and fully expected to return to the farm as an adult. But while Jason was at the University of Idaho, his father sold the farm. Upon earning his degree in plant science, he got a job with Australian agrobiology company Technico, where he gained relationships with importers and exporters of potatoes from the Caribbean to the South Pacific.

After several years during which he spent time working in Australia and China and his young family called New Brunswick and California home, Davenport met Brian Kirschenmann, a potato grower based in Bakersfield, Calif. The two became fast friends and before long decided to go into business together.

“Brian was young and just back to the farm; I was young and kind of aggressive,” Davenport recalls. “We valued a lot of the same things in life: We like to work hard, we like to enjoy life, and we just found a good balance in working together. We’ve really grown together in the last several years.”

Indeed. Since Davenport and Kirschenmann partnered in 2009, the company has expanded to its current state of growing and shipping about several thousand acres of potatoes—most of them for the chip market—in California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado, and today is perhaps the most prolific exporter of U.S. potatoes.

In 2010, Davenport’s brother Derek came on board to manage Allied’s farm in Washington’s Tri-Cities area. In 2016, after several years scouting out locations for its own seed potato farm, Allied purchased Summit Farms in Center, Colo., and renamed it Allied Potato Colorado, which Jared Myers now oversees. Whole fresh chipping and seed potatoes from Allied make their way to some 30 countries around the world each year. In fact, the first U.S. potatoes shipped to the western African countries of Morocco and Senegal were Allied potatoes.

“I think exporting potatoes is one of the most challenging things you can do,” says Davenport. “Not everyone succeeds at it. We enjoy the challenge, the successes, and the mistakes. You learn through the mistakes, and it makes you better.”

From its inception, Allied Potato has employed what Davenport calls a “quality-driven business model,” trusting in the principle that sufficient yield follows outstanding quality. That ethos applies not only to the product the company sends around the world, but to the people who make up the company. 

“We are fortunate to have some great minds on our farms,” says Davenport. “Our growth has been centered on having the right people here to help us grow. “Everyone here has a good understanding of their roles in the business and of how to maximize their efforts. Having a good team that relies on each other and works well together allows you to take on more challenges.”

For all the travel and international relationships and Covey-esque words like “symbiosis” and “synergy,” the guys at Allied Potato are, at their core, farm kids who love the farm and want to make it better.

“Nothing gets me more excited than seeing beautifully worked soil prior to planting,” says Davenport, “or perfectly closed rows of potato plants in full bloom, or the smell of freshly dug potatoes during harvest.

“We’re a group of young farmers,” he continues, “with a lot of opportunity left to grow our business. I see us as young guys who have built the right foundation for a business model and for a farm that seems to be working well. I’m excited to see where the next 20 years will bring us.”