1963 Honorary Life Member Selections


Geoffrey V. C. Houghland was born in Brooklyn in 1897. When he was 17, he decided to move from the city and start a new life in the country. His agricultural career began as a hired man on a farm in upstate New York.

In 1918 he was graduated from the New York School of Agriculture at Morrisville. This same year he was appointed Assistant Agronomist at the Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1924 he received the B.S. degree in Agronomy from the University of Delaware. His next academic move took him to Iowa State College where he held a teaching fellowship and received the M.S. degree in Soil Bacteriology in 1926. He then moved to the University of Marvland for graduate study. Here he majored in soil fertility and plant physiology and received the Ph.D. degree in 1928. He entered the U. S. Department of Agriculture in 1928 and was first connected with the Division of Soil Fertility where he worked almost entirely on fertilizer problems related to the potato crop. His government service has been devoted to the study of the physiology and growth of potatoes. He helped to develop the band placement method for fertilizers and demonstrated its superiority for potatoes throughout the Eastern States. He devised methods for growing potatoes in solution and gravel cultures and demonstrated their usefulness for the study of potato scab and other problems requiring close nutrient control. He used these methods to show the importance of time in the use of phosphorous on potatoes and for the development of minor element deficiency symptoms. At the present time he is engaged in a project aimed at the production of an industrial potato variety with the highest possible starch content.

All of this work has led to the authorship and publication of a long list of scientific articles, technical and farmer’s bulletins all dealing with the production of potatoes and related subjects. He is the author of a chapter on potatoes in Hunger Signs of Crops, and has recently prepared a revision for the forthcoming new issue of this outstanding book.

Dr. Houghland is particularly well known to many Long Island potato growers through his fertilizer placement and other fertilizer studies conducted on Long Island for more than 15 years. Long Island growers will also remember the service that he rendered after the damaging hurricane of September 1939. At that time he personally ran more than 500 salt determinations on samples taken from salted fields and made the much needed planting recommendations. Incidentally, for this work he received special commendation from the Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace.

Dr. Houghland’s principal hobby is photography. Through this avocation he has photographed potato varieties, diseases, and nutrient deficiency symptoms, and all parts of the potato plant so successfully that his pictures are requested by workers in all parts of the world.

It is with pleasure that I present Dr. Geoffrey V. C. Houghland for Honorary Life Membership in the Potato Association of America.

Raymond W. Buck, Jr., Nominator


Geoffrey Van Clief Houghland, long associated with potato research and with the Potato Association of America, died of leukemia on April 15, 1980, in Seaford, Delaware. Geoff, as he was familiarly known to all, was born of Dutch-Irish parentage in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn, New York, on October 19, 1897. In New York City, he attended the Peter Stuyvesant High School, a school noted for its excellent training in the sciences. After school hours, Geoff worked in his father’s print shop as a printer’s devil. From this early training in the sciences and exposure to precision work, came a fine sense of proportion, fitness, and perspective in preparing manuscripts and charts.

At an early age, Geoff selected an agricultural career and became a hired man of a farm in upstate New York. In 1918 he was graduated from the New York School of Agriculture at Morrisville. That same year he was appointed Assistant Agronomist at the Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station. He continued his studies and in 1924 received the B.S. degree in Agronomy from the University of Delaware. He pursued his academic career at Iowa State University where he held a teaching fellowship and received the M.S. degree in Soil Bacteriology in 1926. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Maryland in 1928; his majors were soil fertility and plant physiology. He then entered the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Division of Soil Fertility where he worked almost entirely on fertilizer problems related to the potato crop. During his long tenure in Government service, Geoff also devoted his talents to research on the physiology and growth of the potato. In his fertilizer studies he contributed to the development of the band-placement method, a procedure which greatly aided potato production in the United States. He devised methods for growing potatoes in solution and gravel cultures and demonstrated the usefulness of these methods for studying potato scab and other problems that require precise nutrient control. He used these methods also to show the importance of time in the use of phosphorus on potatoes and for the development of minor-element deficiency symptoms. One of his later achievements was his participation in a project aimed at developing an industrial potato variety with highest possible starch content.

Following several severe hurricanes on the East Coast, notably the one in 1939, he made hundreds of soil analyses for salt toxicity and provided helpful recommendations to potato growers. For this work Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace conferred on him a Citation of Merit. Geoff’s research has been published in more than 70 scientific articles, reports, and in Technical and Farmers’ Bulletins. He is the author of a chapter on potatoes in “Hunger Signs of Crops”, revising the chapter when a new issue of this outstanding book was produced.

One of Geoff’s hobbies was photography. He took photographs of extraordinary quality, the subjects being potato varieties, plants with disease symptoms or those with symptoms of nutrient deficiencies. So successful was his skill that workers all over the world have requested copies of his pictures. One notable photograph taken by Geoff, and prized by the author, is a picture of the isolation plot at Presque Isle, Maine. The picture is a masterpiece that shows the crop stretching off into an infinity of natural beauty and serenity.

In 1963 the Potato Association of America fittingly honored Geoff with Honorary Life Membership at its annual meeting in Riverhead, New York. This was an honor he deeply treasured. In a career of almost 38 years of service to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department, potato farmers, and producers of potato products benefitted by the exactness of his research and by the application of its practical value to the whole industry.

When formally retired, Geoff continued several research projects he had started as a Collaborator with the Department. The discussions many of us had with him on the role of the potato canopy in photosynthesis, qualities needed to produce an industrial potato, specific gravity measurements, and the conditions of growth for proper nutrient uptake infused our minds and helped us develop theories in these areas of research.

He had a mind that could perceive the concept and get to the heart of the problem, correcting often by his own research glaring misconceptions or distortions of fact found in publications. An added delight was to hear Geoff narrate from memory long poems and other essays that were standards for learning in the New York school system and curriculum. All so well-remembered.

Geoff is survived by his wife Marie Dickenson Houghland, three daughters, Nancy Wallace, Jean Ushkurnis, and Mary Ellen Flemming; a sister, Florence Gillespie; and seven grandchildren. As family and associates, we mourn his death hut are comforted that his spirit will remain with us because we have all received the benefits of his keen mental abilities, warm friendliness, and helpfulness and, for such, are richer in mind and spirit.

Muriel J. O’Brien


Mr. Chairman and members of The Potato Association of America. First of all, let me thank the Association for selecting Mr. Porter from Maine as one of those to receive honorary life membership this evening. It is fitting and proper that I thank someone for the invitation to be with you and to tell the Association what I think of the job Wesley F. Porter has done for the potato industry. Mr. Porter, now retired, was for many years Program Director for the State Seed Potato Board. It was my good fortune to be associated with him in various potato programs for about one-quarter of a century and it is a great pleasure for me to say something about Mr. Porter’s work and my association with him.

Mr. Porter started his career as an inspector in the State Department of Agriculture, and I had the honor of being associated with him during most of his active service. In addition to his work, there has always been a close personal relationship as well as the friendship which comes from working together as public servants and recognizing in Mr. Porter a real contributor to our most important potato industry. Not of much importance, but it just happens that Mr. Porter and I are both members of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity which we think has a good name in college life. In passing, I would like to say that perhaps he and I had some advantages in the early days of our potato work. We were in the midst of constructing our programs when Dr. Schultz and Dr. Folsom were enjoying an international reputation. They were followed by Dr. Bonde whom many of you know, and I am sure that Mr. Porter would agree with me that he had an excellent opportunity in his early work.

It is needless for me to go into detail except to say that Mr. Porter’s contribution to our certified seed work, followed by his being Program Director at Porter Farm in Masardis, did a lot to put Maine in its present position in the seed potato industry. It would be unfair if I didn’t mention that Mr. Porter did much to encourage young men coming into potato work. He was patient with them, did his best to be helpful, and one of his longtime associates, Mr. Ted Humphrey, is now Program Director at Porter Farm.

We had difficulties with Porter as we have with anybody, but they were all on the right side of the ledger. For instance, when he hired out as Program Director, the salary was not mentioned. Being familiar with State work, I took occasion to tell him that the Seed Board had indicated that they wanted him and now was the time for him to get a day’s pay if he ever expected to get it. This made no definite impression apparently because it was many weeks after that before he knew what his pay check was going to be. This was typical of the man. His potato work came first and other things fell into line as being of lesser importance. The Seed Board, in my judgment, paid a real tribute to the man whom we are honoring here this evening by naming their farm at Masardis the Wesley F. Porter Foundation Seed Potato Farm. A tablet on a large boulder in the front yard as you enter the farm reads as follows:

“In recognition of the valuable services rendered by Wesley F. Porter of Presque Isle to the potato industry of Maine, this farm shall be known as the Wesley F. Porter Foundation Seed Potato Farm. First as a certified seed inspector, later as an assistant in the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station, and finally as program director for the State Seed Potato Board, Mr. Porter’s accomplishments have been outstanding, while his ability to detect potato diseases in the field has seldom been equalled.”

I salute the Potato Association for its selection and Mr. Porter for the job he has done. We in the industry are extremely proud of men of his type. As Commissioner of Agriculture of the State of Maine, I again want to thank the Potato Association of America for honoring Mr. Porter.

E. L. Newdick, Commissioner, Nominator


Mr. Nathaniel Allen Talmage was born December 17, 1901, in Baiting Hollow, Riverhead township, Long Island, New York. He graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Agriculture. He was elected to the Honorary Society, Phi Kappa Phi.

Mrs. Tahnage is a Master Weaver and by means of this art is known to many friends throughout the United States and many other countries. Their oldest daughter, Jane, is married to an Air Force officer; sons John and Nat, Jr. are involved in the agricultural industry on Long Island, and their youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, is engaged in hospital work in Australia.

Tile Tahnage farm, known as Friar’s Head Farm–so named because of high wood-fringed sand dunes giving the appearance of a friar’s bald head when viewed from the Long Island Sound, which borders the farm on the north–has been in the family since 1880, consisting at that time of 120 acres; 30 acres were added in 1890, 50 acres in 1910, 50 more acres in 1926 and 130 acres in 1962. This attests to the fact that in an area where housing developments are taking over good agricultural land,
the Talmage farm has continued to thrive and grow. The farm does business under the name of H. R. Talmage & Son and is a partnership between members of the Talmage family.

“Nat.” as he is known by his friends all over the United States, has played a major part in the revolution of Long Island potato production and national potato production. Nat and his father introduced portable overhead irrigation on Long Island in 1936. In 1947, he designed and built one of the earliest succesful two-row potato harvesters used with home-designed and home-built bulk bodies. Bulk harvesting has been used ever since that time on this farm..One of the earliest modern potato storages was built in 1926 . . . a building 120 feet by 50 feet with no posts . . . which is still very adequate for today’s needs, equipped with modern forced air ventilation. The farm continues to be first in many innovations to Long Island potato production. The bulk bodies at the present time which haul potatoes into the storage in the fall are adapted in the spring to haul bulk fertilizer and bulk seed into the field and deliver it into the potato planter. Of course, the overhead irrigation which was introduced by the Talmage farm, is now standard practice for Long Island potato producers.

Nat is past president of the Suffolk County Extension Service Association; past chairman of the Suffolk County 4-H Executive Committee; and past master of Pomona Gange. He is chairman of the Suffolk County Agricultural Advisory Committee at the present time. Since 1950 he has been a director of the National Potato Council and is a frequent advisor to decisions concerning agriculture and potatoes in particular on both a state and national level. He is vice president of the Long Island Produce and Fertilizer Company, a leading farm supplier and potato dealer on Long Island since 1922. Nat has been a constant advocate of unified action by the potato industry to regulate potato production at a level that the free market would use and give a fair price and a realisic return to the producer.

Nat Talmage has always been a key figure in all civic ventures in the area. He is a member of Rotary: has been very active in work with the County hospital and church affairs. He has served in both State and national committees with the Congegational Church.

It is with great honor that I present to the members of the Potato Association of America Nat Talmage for Honorary Life Membership. I know of no man from industry who so richly deserves the honor at this ime.

HENRY R. TALMAGE (1871-1951)

Henry R. Talmage, for over half a century an outstanding figure in Long Island agriculture, died on Sunday evening, January 28. 1951, at his home in Baiting Hollow. His death occurred a month after his 79th birthday.

Best known as a farmer, a leader in farm organizations, and the head of a major produce and supply company, Mr. Talmage’s seemingly limitless energy found expression in many other fields. He died on the eve of the fruition of a great comnmunity project of which he was the chief author. As a founder and president of Central Suffolk Hospital, he was to a large degree responsible for the building of the new $825.000. hospital in Riverhead, which opened the week following his death.

Descended from an old Long Island family, Mr. Tahnage was born in Westhampton on Dec. 28, 1871, the son of Nathaniel Miller Talmage and Mary F. Raynor Talmage. Ten years later, his father, a civil war veteran, moved his family across the Island to a farm in Baiting Hollow. There the son began his long and successful career as a farmer, and in the years following his succession to the ownership the original parcel of some 100 acres was expanded to the Friar’s Head Farms of today with its more than 200 acres of highly productive land.

In a day when “book farming” was a term of disparagement. Henry Talmage prepared for his chosen profession by taking the short courses at the State College of Agriculture at Cornell. There his formal education ended, but his thirst for knowledge was never satiated throughout his long lifetime.

He studied marketing with the result that in 1901 he and several fellow growers organized the Long Island Cauliflower Association. which now, in its fiftieth anniversary year, is among the largest and most successful marketing agencies in the United States. For nearly 35 years Mr. Talmage served the association as either president or vice-president and he was director for an even longer period.

A quest for disease-free seed potatoes led indirectly to the formation in 1922 of the Long Island Produce and Fertilizer Co., Inc. Mr. Talmage and his good friend and neighbor, the late Chauncey H. Young, were the co-founders. He succeeded Mr. Young as president of the company and served in that capacity until his death.

Mr. Talmage’s many contributions to agricultural progress were given recognition in 1929 when he was designated a master farmer of New York State. About the same time, he was appointed to the State Agricultural Advisory Committee by the then Governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. For 10 years, on Mr. Roosevelt’s nomination, he served on the State Banking Board as spokesman for the farming interests of the Empire State.

He was founder of the Suffolk County Farm Bureau and served on its executive committee. He was instrumental in the formation of both the State Farm Bureau Federation and the American Farm Bureau Federation, and was for 12 years a director of the state agency. He served as a director of both the National Plant Breeding Association and the Northeast Potato and Vegetable Council, and was an organizer of the more recently established National Potato Council.

Nearly 30 years ago Mr. Talmage and several other growers put up the money for a Cornell fellowship, under which a graduate student investigated the disease and insect problems of the cauliflower industry. This led to the establishment of the Long Island Vegetable Research Farm at Baiting Hollow, as a branch of the Cornell Experiment Station. Mr. Tahnage spearheaded the drive for the original legislative appropriation and has since cooperated in expanding the farm plant and the station’s services to farmers.

In addition to his numerous organizational activities, Mr. Talmage pioneered many agricultural advances. He had a leading role in the mechanization of Long Island’s farm plant in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His Baiting Hollow farm has long been a proving ground for new crops, new methods, and new” machinery. With it all, he has kept exact and elaborate records covering all phases of the operations of Friar’s Head Farms, and he was considered the final authority on local crop costs and returns. In late years his work in introducing and popularizing portable overhead irrigation on Long Island has had a profound effect on the agriculture of the region, where today over 80 per cent of the farms are irrigated.

Mr. Talmage was an organizer and director of the Riverhead Hotel Association, which owns and operates the Hotel Henry Perkins. He was a member of the Baiting Hollow Congregational Church, the Riverhead Rotary Club, the Sound Avenue Grange, and the Riverhead Masonic Lodge.

It has been said of Mr. Tahnage that it was pure torment to him to see a job and be compelled to leave it undone. This was as true in civic or community work as it was on his own farm. In him were combined the gift of vision together with a hard core of practicability and common sense and a rare ability to get things done. For all his attainments and the very considerable prestige that accomplishment brought him, he remained a modest and unassuming man, a good friend, and a considerate and helpful neighbor.

Mr. Tahnage is survived by his wife, Mrs. Ellen Wells Talmage; a son, Nathaniel A. Talmage; who has been a partner in farming enterprises ; a daughter, Mrs. Christine Bayes of Breckenridge, Michigan, and a sister, Mrs. Caroline B. Hulse of Riverhead.

George Cushman