The original gathering of the six founders in the fall of 1912 the group stated the intent of the organization simply as… “to be an effective national potato association…for promoting the potato industry in all its various phases.” A president was elected, W.A. Martin, of Houlton, Maine, and given the power to form an organization and select a complement of officers. This was achieved in 1913 which is considered the year in which the association has its beginning. In January 1913, President Martin contributed $50 from his personal funds to open the treasury, stationery was secured, a vigorous membership campaign inaugurated, and a constitution and by-laws were prepared.

At the first annual meeting in 1914 it was suggested that it would be desirable to have a national organization that would represent the potato industry as a whole. The proceeding of this first annual meeting of 54 members and 13 commercial concerns published a Constitution and By-Laws which among other things stated that “this organization shall be known as The National Potato Association of America”. The name was changed to The Potato Association of America in 1917. Article 2 of these documents presented 15 original objects of The Association covering subjects including but not limited to a) foster mutual cooperation and coordination of all agencies interested in all aspects of the potato industry; b) create better seed, free from disease and encourage a system of seed certification; c) stimulate the development of new and improved varieties, provide proper descriptions of them and assist in determining adaptation through uniform tests in all parts of the country; d) stimulate the investigation of methods for profitable utilization of surplus potatoes; e) encourage measures designed to safeguard the potato industry against the introduction of disease and insect pests; and f) collect and disseminate the best available information relating to both the practical and scientific phases involved in increased yields, coupled with a lessened cost.

From 1914 through 1931 dissemination of information was originally accomplished via publication of the proceeding of the annual meetings, thus this information was available primarily to the members of record during that period. This limitation to the dissemination of information was addressed at the tenth annual meeting in 1923 when a monthly publication ‘The Potato News Bulletin’ was authorized in which the proceedings of the annual meeting were included in the form of an annual report. In 1926 the name of this publication was changed to ‘The American Potato Journal’ which at that time included 98 advertisements out of 354 total pages.

From the beginning, membership in The Association has included people having a direct or indirect relation to the potato industry. From the 54 members and 13 commercial concerns noted at the first annual meeting in 1914 the ‘membership’ grew to 490 in 1925, reached over 1500 by the late 1930’s, and was over 2500 in the late 1940’s. Membership remained over 2000 through the remainder of the first 50 years; it was 2172 in 1963 with 1346 of those located in the United States, 176 in Canada and 650 in other countries. Today, there is approximately 500 members.

The international presence and role of PAA increased remarkably following WWII and through the ‘60s. The PAA as an organization has definitely influenced the establishment of the National Potato Introduction Station at Sturgeon Bay, WI (1947-48); formation of The European Association of Potato Research (1955); establishment of the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru (1971) and potato associations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; financial support for an Antisera Program (1983) and an International Blackleg Conference in Scotland (1983). This global activity has strengthened The PAA and helped move the potato industry forward nationally and internationally.

PAA concerns for the potato industry were reflected by the various committees that evolved to meet the needs of the potato industry at the time. Active committees in the mid ‘60s were machinery and equipment, potato nutrition and culture, potato storage and transportation, potato quality and grade standards, marketing and packaging, potato diseases, and potato insects. At that time “organizational and administrative functions” were kept in committees, but a new concept of “sections” developed to handle the other functions. The following committees became Sections in the years noted.

  • Potato seed certification and nomenclature → Certification, 1969
  • Processing and utilization and the Potato Utilization Conference → Utilization & Marketing, 1971
  • Potato diseases and their control → Pathology, 1974 → Plant Protection in 2001.
  • Potato physiology → Physiology, 1978
  • Breeding and cytogenetics → Breeding & Genetics, 1978
  • Extension → Extension, 1978. This section merged with Production and Management Section in 2012.
  • Production and Management, 1988, the only section not formed from an existing committee but members who were of similar discipline.

PAA as a professional society and partner with the potato industry changed and broadened as US society and agriculture/farming evolved. Too numerous to define fully, the following examples are note-worthy.

  1. Symposia were identified in PAA programs as early as 1923 but became more formalized in the ‘60s and became the plenary session to start each annual meeting. Also, it became a responsibility of the Sections to organize the Symposium.
  2. Graduate students were given their own category with reduced dues in 1983, and the Emeritus category started in 2007-08.
  3. The role for the President to become the ‘Past President’ came about in the 60’s.
  4. Spanish abstracts included in the Journal since 1974 resulted from a 1965 motion to accept articles written in either English or Spanish with an abstract in the alternate language.
  5. Graduate Student Paper Competition was initiated in 1976.
  6. The PAA Endowment funds (General and Frank Haynes Grad Student Awards) were first presented in 1999, officially recognized in 2000. The status of PAA was changed to a non profit 501(c) (3) organization in order to accept tax deductible contributions.
  7. Executive Committee meetings historically were held only during the annual meeting, but, as PAA business became more complex, teleconference meetings were initiated in 2006.
  8. Publishing of the American Potato Journal was transferred from New Jersey to Maine in 1973. The name of the Journal was changed to American Journal of Potato Research in 1998. In 2007 publishing of this journal was transferred to Springer.
  9. A sweet potato symposium was part of the 2011 annual meeting program in Wilmington NC.
  10. Transition into electronic voting for new officers was reviewed in 2010/11 and used for the first time in 2012.

Collaboration between The PAA and all facets of the potato industry has strengthened the total potato effort in many ways during these first 100 years. In this respect it has in part fulfilled the opinion and anticipation of its founders that “this association could be of inestimable value in promoting the potato industry in all its phases.”

Larry K. Hiller and Robert E. Thornton, Washington State University (2013)