50 for 50: Wada Farms

Published online: Jan 28, 2021 50 for 50, Articles, Grower of the Month
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Throughout 2021, as part of Potato Grower’s celebration of our 50th year in publication, we will be honoring in our pages and on our website 50 of the potato industry’s most innovative and influential individuals, companies and organizations over the past half-century. This “50 for 50” series will include researchers, salesmen, packers, processors and, of course, plenty of potato growers. A lot of them will be names you’ve heard before. To some, you’ll get a fresh introduction. Regardless, each has had an outsize impact on the U.S. potato industry, and each deserves our thanks and recognition. This article appears in the February 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

Wada Farms

Bryan and Albert Wada

If you’re looking for a true American success story, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than Wada Farms. Frank Wada immigrated to the U.S. from Japan in 1922, armed with little more than a passion for growing high-quality, nutritious foods. He and his wife Agnes did just that in the farm fields around San Clemente, Calif., until the middle of World War II, when, under threat of internment, they packed up and headed inland. They put down roots on a quarter-section of fertile land in Pingree, Idaho, and harvested their first crop of Idaho potatoes in 1943.

What began as a 160-acre, flood-irrigated farm is now a 30,000-acre operation with farm locations spread across three counties in southeastern Idaho. The company also includes a large fresh potato packing facility and a national produce marketing arm that markets russet, red, yellow and fingerling potatoes, as well as sweet potatoes and onions. Combined, the companies employ about 300 full-time associates and up to 200 additional seasonal employees.

The Wadas have a long history of potato industry leadership. Frank and Agnes’s son Albert, now 74, was the founding chairman of United Potato Growers of Idaho and United Potato Growers of America. He also aided in the formation of United Potato Growers of Canada and served as director of the World Potato Congress. Albert’s own son, Bryan, is now CEO of Wada Farms and was recently appointed as a commissioner of the Idaho Potato Commission.

“We attribute the success of Wada Farms to the expertise, dedication, loyalty and high caliber of hardworking executives, managers, business partners and associates,” says Albert. “Many associates started their young careers with us and have been with the company 30, 40, even 50 years.”

A commitment to food safety and sustainability have been major drivers in Wada Farms’ success. They employ sustainable farming practices through the wise use of land resources, water conservation and management, careful herbicide and pesticide applications, and beneficial soil-enriching crop rotations. They are deeply committed to this vision, with the intention of making agriculture strong, safe and sustainable both for today and generations to come.

Consistency, quality, integrity and continuous improvement are the focus points of the Wada culture. These attributes are often referred to internally as “the Wada Way.”