50 for 50: Sackett Potatoes

Published online: Mar 03, 2021 50 for 50, Grower of the Month Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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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 March 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

The name Sackett has been synonymous with potatoes in central Michigan for a long time. A five-generation legacy means a lot of potatoes and a lot of Sacketts. In 1987, Alan Sackett, then a partner on the original Sackett home farm with his brothers, struck out on his own, moving 30 miles north to Mecosta, Mich. With his sons Brian and Jeff, Alan leased a farm with 1,200 acres of irrigated land and good storage facilities. That first growing season saw about 400 acres of potatoes harvested.

Since then, the Sacketts have increased their operation to more than 18,000 farmed acres in three states (Michigan, Illinois and North Carolina). They grow seed corn, field corn, soybeans, wheat and, of particular interest to us, some 7,200 acres of chipping potatoes. The original potato storage capacity of 90,000 hundredweight has grown to accommodate more 1.3 million hundredweight across the farm locations.

Today, Brian Sackett and his son Tyler — representing the fifth and sixth generations to grow potatoes — are managing partners of Sackett Potatoes. Though Alan has retired from day-to-day management, he makes his way into the office most days and continues to provide valuable input for the business.

Having farming operations in such disparate environments as the Upper Midwest and coastal North Carolina keeps the Sacketts on their toes. North Carolina planting begins in early March with harvest in June and July; the Michigan/Illinois growing season runs from the beginning of May through October, and storage shipments run all the way up through the next May. “So we ship potatoes basically every week of the year,” says Brian.

That growth has been a lot of work, and it hasn’t always been easy. There have been obstacles. But hard work has never scared the Sacketts away. The whole family takes pride — even comfort — in a steadfast belief that hard, smart work always pays off. When those obstacles have come, they’ve carefully assessed each situation, come up with a plan, then put their heads down and charged forward.