From the community

Maine Potato Board names Wayne and Greg Garrison Farm Family of the Year

Posted July 16, 2013, at 4:29 p.m.

BLAINE, Maine — The Maine Potato Board is pleased to announce the 2013 Farm Family of the Year is  the Wayne and Gregg Garrison family of Blaine.

“My Dad and I were both very humbled and totally honored when I received the call from Tim [Hobbs] notifying us we had been selected to receive this honor from among many deserving farm families.” said Gregg Garrison, in a potato board press release.

Wayne Garrison, Gregg’s father, started the operation. He graduated from high school in 1960 and went to work at the local bank. Wayne lasted for 18 months as a banker … long enough to marry his bride, Jacqueline (Jackie), who grew up on a farm and had always said she’d never marry a farmer. This decision led the family to the successful potato growing operation it is today.

In 1965, Wayne and Jackie purchased their homestead and 30 acres, which has grown into Double G Farms, Inc., the 1,500-acre agri-business Wayne and Gregg run today.

“My sisters and I grew up working on the farm,” said Gregg. “During planting, I worked some land for Dad in the morning before I went to school, he and mom planted with our two-row planter during the day, and after school I was back out in the fields. It was sure

a different operation then.”

“We can’t do it that way anymore,” added Wayne. “Today’s grower faces the same weather issues and conditions we can’t always control, but today’s different crop expectations, quality control, storage requirements and yield opportunities require a cutting edge management style to meet the needs of consumers and processors. You have to be ready for today’s and tomorrow’s technology. Ultimately, we are farming for

tomorrow.”

After high school, Gregg attended the University of Maine at Presque Isle, where he majored in business. In 1988, the father and son formed Double G Farms; they also own Borderview Farms and Borderview Trucking. One of the words most often mentioned by Wayne and Gregg in speaking about success in today’s grower operation is “adapt.” Today’s potato industry requires growers to face realities not considered as important or necessary by previous generations of growers.

The scarcity of available land is one of today’s realities. In order to adapt for sufficient rotation practices, today’s yield-conscious potato grower needs three times as much available acreage as their potato crop. That’s hard to find, pointed out Gregg. Double G Farms plants 650 acres of potatoes, 650 acres of oats and barley, and 200 acres in a clover/grass cover crop.

“Ideally, we would plant 650 acres of cover, but we can’t, so we rotate those 200 acres into next year’s potato crop as best we can,” he added.

“Back in my first years, growers planted potatoes sometimes up to 15 years on the same piece of land, making it very marginal ground,” stated Wayne. “We need to enhance yields today, and, among other things, one of the first steps is adequate rotation.”

The Garrisons sell their crop to McCain’s, Naturally Potatoes, and supply the potatoes for Fox Family Chips. They have been a

McCain’s Top Grower four times. Gregg also was selected as the Maine Potato Board’s Young Farmer of the Year for 2009.

Gregg stated, “A successful grower must also be innovative and willing to try new technologies.” For example, when the Garrisons built their first refrigerated storage facility in 1999, Gregg researched the latest technology being used in other potato growing regions of the country. They decided to install a humidicell, which at that time was not common in Maine. Today it is standard practice, as it assists to improve storage conditions.

The Garrisons point out that success on the farm is truly a group effort. A successful operation must surround itself with hardworking employees, agri-consultants, vendors, customers, researchers and advocates for the Maine potato industry. Gregg added, “Nothing can replace our farm employees and the knowledge and years of experience they bring every day. We also rely on a good relationship with local farming vendors.”

The Garrisons encourage all family members to be involved on the farm; and it truly is a family effort. Wayne’s oldest daughter Andrea Hammond and her husband, Brent, live downstate, but enjoy helping out on the farm when they visit. Younger daughter Tracey Wright and her husband, Edward, can see the potato houses from their home. Tracey staffs the farm office, and is often seen helping out on the farm equipment whenever needed. From getting ground ready to picking rocks to harvest, Gregg’s children Olivia, Spencer, Chandler, and Sydney all work on the farm, as do Tracey’s children, Isabelle and Brandon.

The strength behind family farms is often acknowledged to be the wife and mother. It is certainly true for the Garrisons. Although Wayne’s wife Jackie passed away two years ago, she was the glue which held the whole family effort together as they grew into what they are today. Wayne states, “The Lord has blessed our farm and family and I count it as a blessing to have been able to work side by side with my wife, children and now my

grandchildren.”

Gregg’s wife, Heidi, also grew up on a farm. She too provides the support that all family members need…whether in the home or in the midst of the myriad of other duties which befall a grower’s wife. “It is a real joy to see our entire family work together for one goal,” said Heidi. “The kids have learned what it means to get up early, work a long day and have pride in what they do. The best part is doing it with their dad and grandfather.”

Both Gregg and Wayne play a role in their community as well, having been active in their church and Gregg currently serves the potato industry as a member of the Maine Potato Board.

A final thought from Wayne: “Remember, the Maine potato industry is alive and well, and we want to keep it that way.”

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