50 for 50: Miller Research

Published online: Mar 30, 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.

A scientist. That’s what Terry Miller was. A really, really good plant pathologist. But he was also an Idaho farm boy who couldn’t shake the farming bug from his system. So when his father called and asked if Terry wanted to come back to the farm, the answer was never in question: Yes. Though friends and colleagues in academia openly questioned his sanity — “You’re going to give up being a professor to go farm?” — he resigned from a faculty position at Ohio State University and returned to Minidoka County to run the family farm.

But Terry still had a reputation as one of the best ag researchers around. He got a few calls from friends in the scientific community asking if he would be able to run chemical trials on the farm. He took them up on the offer, and in 1975, Miller Research was born. Over the years, the research business grew. Growers and processors in the area started asking Terry to provide an unbiased look at myriad fertilizers and crop protection products. Chemical companies themselves sent representatives to the sandy north bank of the Snake River, asking Miller Research for an honest look at their own products. Eventually, the success of the research business became such that it outweighed that of the commercial farm, and in 2002, Terry committed to doing research full-time.

Today, Terry’s son Jeff Miller leads Miller Research as the company’s president and CEO. He and the rest of the Miller Research team continue to strive to uphold the standard of integrity set forth by Terry.

Miller Research now performs about 70 crop trials a year, more than 60 of which are typically for potatoes. Each is meticulously specific and targeted toward solving real-world production problems. Their clients and research partners include individual growers, co-ops, chemical companies and fellow researchers from the University of Idaho, Oregon State University and Washington State University.

“My dad’s philosophy always was to never color the data based on your funding source or any other bias,” says Jeff. “He told me early on, ‘The minute people think we’re biased, they have no reason to come to us.’ Our job is to provide unbiased research to growers, and our dedication to that has allowed us to stay in business.”