50 for 50: Black Gold Farms

Published online: Mar 26, 2021 50 for 50, Grower of the Month Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears in the April 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

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.

When Hallie Halverson grew his first crop of potatoes — 10 acres of seed potatoes in Forest River, N.D. — in 1928, he probably had no idea it was the genesis of what would become one of the biggest, most geographically diverse potato producers in the U.S. But maybe he did. The Halversons have always had a bit of a visionary streak when it comes to the potato business, after all.

By the time the family business took on the name of Black Gold Farms in 1965, the Halversons were growing several hundred acres of potatoes for both the fresh and chipping sectors, as well as running a considerable herd of purebred Angus cattle. In the mid-1980s, the cowherd was divested to allow a stronger focus on the potato business. At the recommendation of customers desiring a fresh crop grown closer to them, Gregg Halverson (Hallie’s grandson) extended farm operations to the bootheel of Missouri, immediately making Black Gold Farms the largest potato grower in that state. Since then, Black Gold Farms has continued to expand, with farms, packing facilities and sales offices now spread across 11 states, from North Dakota to Florida. The company is led today by Gregg Halverson’s sons Eric (CEO) and John (COO), with Gregg as president.

“We’re only as good as our people, and we’ve made a concerted effort to find, grow and keep talent. We’ve been fortunate to have a really great and dedicated team for decades,” says Eric Halverson. “Our customers have continually pushed us to get better, think differently, and make innovation a priority.”

That willingness to adapt and innovate has been a driving force behind Black Gold Farms’ continuing success. The potato industry is very different now than it was 50 years ago (and a world away from what it was when Hallie Halverson got into it in 1928), but Black Gold Farms has developed into an industry leader to which potato growers, packers and marketers look as an example.

Another key tenet of Black Gold Farms is a commitment to the communities it calls home. There is an understanding that the company must be a leader in providing resources to ensure those communities continue to thrive.

“We value our team, transparency, excellence, passion, our customers and innovation,” says Eric Halverson. “When we mix all of that together and wake up every day knowing that this is how we work, good things happen.”

Gregg Halverson sums it up nicely: “Growth has been important to us all along, our virtues have been important to us all along, family has been important to us all along. And we’ve had a lot of fun doing what we do: growing potatoes.”