KRIS P. BEMIS
Kris, as he is generally known, was brought up on a farm in Michigan and graduated in horticulture from Michigan State College in 1915. He studied marketing under Dr. H. J. Eustace, who was about the only instructor in the field of marketing at that time.
After graduating, he went into county agent work in Brooke County, West Virginia. He left there to return to his home state and become County Agent of Mason County, Michigan. From there, he joined the Michigan Potato Growers Exchange and stinmlated the production of certified seed potatoes in Michigan. He devised many of the rules and regulations for seed certification and set up a marketing plan for Michigan certified seed. He then joined Albert Miller and Company of Chicago, Illinois, where he handled the sale of certified seed potatoes, select seed and some table stock. Again he stimulated the production of certified seed in a very wide area
to become Branch Manager for their production department in the Lake in the North Central states. From there he went with the Brown Company Okeechobee area of Florida. Here he arranged for the harvesting, packaging. and distribution of many vegetable crops.
He joined the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, handling marketing agreements primarily on potatoes and was instrumental in helping establish many of them. He always advocated the packaging of a better product. He then went with the Cleveland Tractor Company as a District Sales Manager. From there he went back with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration to become the Regional Director of the Food Stamp Plan, with headquarters at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He then transferred to the Office of Price Administration. handling the food rationing for institutional eating places and helped guide them with respect to obtaining vegetables and potatoes for their menus. When he left, the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association gave him a testimonial dinner for the outstanding services that he rendered. He left the Office of Price Administration to become Secretary of the Potato Division of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, which position he currently holds. His efforts to promote the consumption and improve the marketing of white potatoes have been outstanding. The publication “‘Spud Light” which Kris writes keeps the trade well informed.
He stimulated and was practically the founder of the Utilization Conferences. He always has been interested in research and stimulated research not only in the field of potatoes but in many other projects. He is married and has two grown children, a son and daughter, both of whom are married. He has a fine woodworking laboratory, which is one of his hobbies. The other hobby is working with the Boy Scouts of America. He is Vice-Chairman of the Prince George’s District of this organization. He has spent considerable time during the summer with the boys camping in the woods but, of late, has not had much opportunity for this, but he usually can combine this hobby with the work of the Boy Scouts Troop No. 228. He always has been interested in the farmers’ welfare and in the potato industry in general.
PROF. C. L. FITCH
I consider it indeed a pleasure to be given the opportunity to sponsor my good friend of long standing, Prof. C. I. Fitch, for Honorary and Life Membership in the Potato Association of America. There are few persons on this continent who have done so much with so little public recognition as has Prof. Fitch. He is and has been for many years a man of action, a man who believes in getting things done, a man who has looked for little commendations for his many deeds–but one who has considered Providence very good to him by the pleasure he gets from seeing a job well done. Enthusiasm, integrity, truth, honesty, fairplay, vigilance, crusading and merit are words which describe the work of Professor Fitch. I have indeed never known him to be accused of apple polishing or boot licking. Indeed, to the contrary, he has often taken pleasure in leading with his chin when he was firmly convinced that that was the proper technique to get his point across or to get his requested appropriation granted.
And speaking of appropriations I can truthfully say that we have with us this evening the man who is an expert at softening and mesmerizing budget directors and appropriation committees whether they be Federal, State or local. I know this first hand from two personal experiences in connection with the United States House Agricultural Appropriations Comlnittee bearings with reference to appropriations for the National Potato and Onion Committee. Following one of these hearings a Congressional Committee than concluded the meeting by saying “I always consider very seriously the requests made by Prof. Fitch at these hearings since it has been my experience that great returns have resulted in the past from the appropriations which he has requested”.
I am sure it is no secret to many of you that Prof. Fitch, more than anyone else, is responsible for the existence of the National Potato and Onion Committee and for the appropriations it has received since 1929 for potato breeding and since 1938 for onion breeding research. It has not always been easy–it has frequently been a thankless job. But I would not be describing Prof. Fitch if I told you he was looking for the easy way out unless it also happened to be the one he considered best.
He has been for many years Secretary and Treasurer of the Iowa State Vegetable Growers’ Association and is still most active in that position. He is the man behind the guns at the fast moving, widely known annual meeting of this Association held at Mason City, Iowa. These meetings are scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday and I know that it was a sacrifice of time on his part to be in attendance here tonight. He has been active for many years in the Vegetable Growers’ Association of America and just last week was awarded their highest honor “The Vegetable Man of the Year”. For 47 years he has been a correspondent of The Packer and thousands of persons look forward to reading his column in each issue of this publication.
He has sponsored a number of educational trips into various potato and vegetable growing areas of the country for the enlightenment and pleasure of his Iowa growers. No one has ever seen so much for so little in so short a time unless they have been on one of these tours. I greatly enjoy reading his periodic news letters which describe very vividly his activities in behalf of the state organization but also an occasional scolding of one or more of his growers for doing something which has not met with his approval. From these news letters I also get the feeling that I am privileged to look behind the curtain in his most happy home and see gracious examples of love, reverence and faith.
I have known Prof. Fitch since 1923 when I arrived at Iowa State College to begin my graduate work. Most of what I have said tonight has occurred since that first meeting. I know you will be interested in a brief summary of his earlier life and accomplishments. Prof. Fitch is 83 years young and if you think I have used the wrong word here. I defy you to keep up with him. He was born in Charles City, Iowa. March 29, 1873.
On June 23, 1926 he married Miss Grace Dewey and they have three children, Dewey, David James and Faith Joan and a number of grandchildren. Just to show you how versatile Prof. Fitch is, I will say that he was a dairy farmer and creamery superintendent from 1893 to 1903; a potato and sugar beet grower at Greeley. Colorado. 1903 to 1909: potato specialist at the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, 1909 to 1913 and Extension Vegetable Specialist at Iowa State College from 1913 to his retirement in 1946. Following World War I he was a member of the
Educational Corps, A.E.F. and was an instructor in vegetables at Allery, France. He studied vegetable production in England, France, Italy and Germany. And let me dispel any idea that some of you may have that he is an expert only on potatoes and vegetables by telling you that he is the author of a publication with the intriguing title of “Some Women of France”.
It is folly for me to try to enumerate all the many interesting and worthwhile activities and accomplishments of our guest this evening because of his long and extremely active period of years. Let me just say in conclusion that we of the Potato Association of America collectively and individually consider it a great honor and a privelege to have you with with us this evening, Prof. Fitch, and to have you accept from us our kindest thoughts and sentiments which are presented to you in the form of an Honorary Recognition as Life Member of this Association.
JAMES C. MILWARD
When our Vice President, Dr. R. W. Hougas asked me to present my old friend and associate, Professor James G. Milward, as a candidate for Honorary Life Membership in the Potato Association of America, I was very pleased. Jim’s many friends throughout the industry will be glad to know that he is enjoying good health and this winter, he and his wife plan to drive to California to visit with members of their family. James G. Milward was born on April 5, 1881 at Madison, Wisconsin. He graduated from the College of Agriculture of the University of Wisconsin in 1907 and was granted the M.S. degree in horticulture in 1909. He became interested in the potato plant as a young student and submitted a graduate thesis on early blight of potatoes. From 1903 to 1907 he was a part-time assistant in horticulture. Professor Milward became a full-time member of the Horticultural Department at the University of Wisconsin in 1907, and assumed leadership in the improvement of seed potatoes in the United States. He retired from active service at the age of 70 in 1951.
His early studies of varieties in the field dealing with problems of potato degeneration (virus diseases), varietal classification and adaptation served as a basis for later extension activities conducted cooperatively with the United States Department of Agriculture and other organizations. He emphasized the need for developing seed stocks by carefully selecting typical and productive hills and maintaining this seed separately for continued selection. By following these procedures, he clearly demonstrated that healthy vigorous seed. free from varietal mixtures, could be obtained. Professor Milward recognized the need to stimulate grower interest and understanding in the production of quality seed potatoes. Through his efforts the Wisconsin Potato Growers’ Association was organized in 1912. One of its main objectives was the development and distribution of quality seed on a community, state and national basis. It is generally agreed that this early work in Wisconsin was of tremendous importance in getting organized potato seed certification underway in the United States. Under a plan directed by William Stuart, and in cooperation with Dr. W. A. Orton, Professor Milward was appointed Field Representative of the USDA to supervise the planting, harvesting and evaluation of seed potato plots in Southern areas–mainly Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas. One object of this work was to bring about desirable relations between Northern producers and Southern consumers of seed.
The USDA in 1917 arranged for J. G. Milward to work with Station leaders and growers to promote seed potato certification and to increase seed potato supplies for war-time emergency. A series of meetings were held in Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota. Colorado, Utah and Oregon to aid in accomplishing these objectives. Milward was an active member of the Potato Association of America during its early formative years. He served on various comlnittees, especially seed certification committees, and was President of the Association at its Boston, Massachusetts meeting in 1922.
It is a double privilege tonight for me to be here, one to act as master of ceremonies and the other to have the pleasure of sponsoring Ted Still of Colorado as an honorary member of the Potato Association of America. Few deserve the honor more than he does.
Ted was born in Kansas, December 26, 1901. He grew up there, on a farm, and attended Kansas State College. For a time following graduation he worked for the state of Kansas as a wheat inspector. This occupation, testing wheat for protein content, amid the dust of grinding and the chemical fumes of the laboratory, caused him to contact vocational tuberculosis. Fighting this disease he migrated to Colorado finding his way into the San Luis Valley. This was Colorado’s good fortune. Perhaps it was nearly an even exchange, since Colorado gave him his health back completely, and he gave Colorado one of the best foundation seed growers in the country. He married in Colorado and has a family of four: his lovely wife Dorothy; his daughter Carolyn; and his son Douglas. They live on a potato farm near Monte Vista, Colorado.
Ted started raising potatoes in 1930 and began growing foundation seed in 1933. Later in tile thirties when bacterial ring rot was in its first rampage he was largely responsible for saving the Red McClure industry. Many of you remember those times. The disease was new, we didn’t know what it was. Before anyone became aware of its seriousness all varieties were contaminated. The Red McClure was no exception. Some one had to move quickly to prevent the extinction of the variety. Ted hand-picked hills and tubers showing no symptoms of the disease, cut the stem end of each tuber for a closer examination, and then tuber-indexed them under isolation being careful to avoid any contamination. He worked with this seed until it was disease-free, releasing some of it to his neighbors as it was increased. Today, twenty years later, ring rot disease has not been found on his farm. That seed was the beginning of the Red McClure industry that exists today. With few exceptions every field of Red McClure potatoes grown in the San Luis Valley came from that seed Ted nursed so faithfully at that time.
Ted adopted and originated other improvement practices early in his farming career. Not being content with good farm and marketing practices for himself he began thinking of his neighbors, his community, the San Luis Valley, the potato industry. One of the first things he did was to organize the San Luis Valley Potato Improvement Association. Organized solely for the improvement it could bring to the potato industry, it has never attempted to carry on any business. At its inception his neighbors elected Ted president and he has remained president to this day. It was the Potato Improvement Association with Ted carrying the ball, which helped instigate one of the first marketing agreement laws. Colorado has had a marketing agreement law for seventeen years. Colorado was also one of the first states to start compulsory inspection and to adopt the branding law. The San Luis Valley Potato Improvement Association was behind both of these movements.
In addition, Ted has always been an enthusiastic cooperator in Extension Service programs, community planning, and farm cooperative marketing. He has also been a leader and strong supporter of research. Not willing to wait for the natural sequence of activities to bring research findings, he helped originate needed research. He has served as research advisor to the Experiment Station for many years. The Improvement Association, with his guiding hand, early rented a farm to facilitate potato research. Later it purchased the farm and when it was paid for, donated the farm and facilities to the Agricultural College for research purposes. Almost since the first day he grew potatoes be has heep an official in the Colorado Certified Potato Growers Association. He has been president of this organization several different years. This is the agency which is the cooperating partner with the Agricultural College for the Certification of seed potatoes in Colorado.
Several years ago Ted received the Skelly agricultural award for his good farming practices and his foundation seed production. He was also one of the early Master Seedsmen of Colorado. This is an award that every seed grower in Colorado would give his right arm to possess. Ted was one of the first to receive this distinction.
In closing let me quote a paragraph written to me by one of his colleagues. “Ted has worked tirelessly to improve marketing conditions, too, not only in Colorado, but nationally as well. In the fall of 1953 when potato prices were at disastrously low levels he began to promote the idea of farmers solving their own marketing problems through marketing associations and marketing quotas, and to steer away from the idea of government subsidies. He has travelled thousands of miles, many of them at his own expense, to foster these ideas of self-help for the potato grower, and also single handed at times was able to get others to listen and give some thought to this phase of the potato industry. He is a member of the National Potato Council, constantly active in attempting to give aid to the national program.” It is with great pleasure that I sponsor Ted Still of Monte Vista, Colorado as honorary life member in the Potato Association of America.