Strong Roots

Published online: Jun 14, 2021 50 for 50, Articles Jason Harris, Publisher, Harris Publishing
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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. To view the full roster of “50 for 50” honorees, click here
This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

It all started in 1971 when Darryl Harris left his current job at Evans Advertising Agency in Salt Lake City and moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho, to start his own business, Darryl W. Harris Advertising. As he was building his new company, Darryl developed a hobby following chariot racing — a sport that was quite popular in the region back then. He had the idea to create a magazine for that association, selling copies at different races throughout the region. While that proved to be successful, it was the first of many ideas that led Darryl to change the business name to Harris Publishing and focus solely on publishing magazines.

“Well, if I am going to end up in the magazine publishing business, I need to do some magazines that have more potential for growth,” Darryl says. “That’s when the idea of Potato Grower came into the picture. Being from Idaho, I wondered what magazine would be successful in Idaho? What was Idaho known for? You guessed it — potatoes.”

The bank loaned Darryl money using sold ads as collateral. The challenge was selling ads with no prior product to showcase. Darryl worked hard writing, designing and selling that first issue, and he ultimately pulled it off. The rest is history. Since that first issue, Harris Publishing has published over 500 editions of Potato Grower, as well as launched many other publications including Sugar Producer, SnoWest, Idaho Falls Magazine, Houseboat, Pontoon & Deck Boat, Dirt Toys and Diesel Tech, among others.

Darryl Harris published the first issue of Potato Grower Magazine 50 years ago.

Today Harris Publishing is owned and operated by three of Darryl’s sons: Chuck, Jason and Ryan. We purchased it from our father in 2008. Darryl currently spends much of his time writing books, varying from fictional novels to family histories. He and his wife Chris, both happy and healthy, are enjoying retirement with their five children, 23 grandchildren and one great-grandchild — with more on the way.

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary of this magazine, I can’t help but reflect on the past years and the people who have made this happen:

First and foremost, my mom and dad, who took a risk in 1971 and started this business in the basement of their home.

Mel Erickson, a man who has taught me so much about life and business, not as much through words as by example. He worked for Harris Publishing and Potato Grower for over 30 years.

And to many other former staff members such as Richard Holley, Gary Rawlings, Bee Shultz and Lane Lindstrom, as well as current staff members Steve Janes, Janet Chase, Rob Erickson, Tyrell Marchant, Kevin Malcom and Shantelle Stewart.

I am also grateful to so many Harris Publishing staff members who are the reason this company is celebrating 50 years. And to my brothers and business partners: Ryan and Chuck. Who knew after our childhood years of wrecking snowmobiles, sneaking out at night to test drive Dad’s new car and failing miserably at raising chickens, we would end up here, together?

None of this would have possible without these people and their wonderful talents, passion and ideas. 

Cover of the very first issue of Potato Grower, September 1972

Here we are 50 years later. More than 500 issues later. More than 30,000 pages later. It has certainly surpassed my dad’s expectations. My dad and his early staff had visions of what those first issues should be and where this might go, but I doubt any of them would have guessed it would develop into what it is today.

We are grateful to be a part of this industry. What a wonderful group of people we have come to know. We are so grateful for our many readers, contributors and advertising partners. A magazine does not exist without those groups.

We look forward to the future by embracing our past. While we hope our magazine has benefited this industry in some way, there is no doubt this industry has made us and our company better.

We love our eastern Idaho home. We love the potato industry. We love potatoes. Harris Publishing has grown to become a nationally recognized publisher of various titles, but our roots are and have always been in potatoes. And this company’s success and history was built on the launch and success of Potato Grower.