50 for 50: LaJoie Family

Published online: Dec 29, 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. To view the full roster of “50 for 50” honorees, click here. 
This article appears in the December 2021 issue of Potato Grower

The LaJoie family has always been farmers—at least for as many generations as anyone cares to mention. But they haven’t always grown potatoes in northern Maine; that’s only been going on for a mere 120 years or so.

“I attribute a lot of our success today to earlier generations of my family,” says Jay LaJoie, who represents the fifth generation of LaJoies to work the original farm in Van Buren, Maine. “My family has always had that hard work ethic; I was brought up with it.” 

That work ethic has driven the growth of what today at 1,300-acre operation, 500 acres of which are dedicated to as many as seven varieties of potatoes. About half of those potatoes in a given year will go to the chipping sector, with about 20 percent going to both the fresh and processing markets. The remaining 10 percent of the LaJoies’ potato crop is seed, the majority of which goes back into their own operation.

In 2007 the family organized the farm into an LLC. The organization now consists of four joint owners—Jay LaJoie, who acts as secretary/treasurer and farm manager; his father, Gil, who serves as vice president; Gil’s brother Dominic, president of the company; and a cousin, Lucas, who manages the processing sector of the business.

The LaJoies have made a concerted effort in recent years to promote and increase the farm’s soil health, experimenting with different rotations and cover crops, mostly green manures. They keep meticulous records to determine which cover crops and/or traditional methods work best in which fields and with which crops.

The family has always seen value in having a voice in the industry and being involved in their community; LaJoies have routinely found themselves on the Maine Potato Board, National Potato Council, Potatoes USA board, and other industry organizations. The farm also hosts antique tractor pulls every summer in Van Buren and have put together a small ag heritage museum at the entrance of their packing facility. It’s all an effort to promote not only their own farm, but the lifestyle agriculture in northern Maine has afforded them and for which they are grateful.