2011 Honorary Life Member Selections

clip_image002_004GREGG HALVERSON

Gregg Halverson is President and CEO of Black Gold, a company he founded and built. Under his leadership, the company has grown from a small North Dakota farm to a multi-state potato production company internationally known and recognized for its innovation and advanced technology. From humble beginnings to its status today as the world’s largest producer of fresh crop chipping potatoes, Black Gold has always been a family-owned and operated business.

Gregg grew up in the area where his grandfather planted the first crop of potatoes in 1928 and was actively involved in the operation as a small child. While still in high school, he founded “Black Gold Farms.” Today, Gregg ensures daily decisions are in line with the company’s mission and vision and manages the Black Gold Executive Team. He also works closely with customers to maintain business relations.

Sons John and Eric are both involved in the farm, and daughter Leah’s ties to agriculture extend to her position as an account manager with AdFarm in Fargo, ND.

Gregg graduated from North Dakota State University in 1971 with a BS degree in agriculture. Gregg owned and managed a nationally recognized registered Angus cattle herd, showing champion breeding stock all over the US and Canada. The cattle were dispersed in 1985 and in 1986; Black Gold undertook its first long distance potato venture in southeast Missouri. It now has 17,000 acres in production across the country.

An industry leader, Gregg’s resume includes extensive service on boards, councils and associations along with a long list of accomplishments and awards-including North Dakota Outstanding Farmer in 1982, a Meritorious Service Award from the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, the National Potato Growers, and most recently, the 7th World Potato Congress Industry Award in 2009, presented in Christchurch, New Zealand. Under his leadership, Black Gold has received numerous awards, including global and national supplier innovation awards from Frito-Lay and Cavendish Farms and the 2009 Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Potato Council.

Active in his community, he served on the city council, as an elder in his church, chaired the Forest River Centennial, the University of North Dakota Potato Bowl, and initiated the first Potato Bowl “French Fry Day”, which annually dishes up a world-record number of French fries. He created the Halverson Family Foundation to make contributions to charities and scholarships and he enjoys spending time with his five granddaughters when he is not pursuing his other hobbies: tailgating at NDSU football games and adding to his extensive collection of more than 700 antique potato chip cans.

Duane Preston, Nominator

clip_image004DR. LARRY K. HILLER

Dr. Larry K. Hiller earned his BS and MS degrees from Iowa State University in Ag Education and Horticulture, respectively. At Cornell University, his PhD project focused on the effects of temperature and growth regulators on seed stalk elongation, flowering and endogenous gibberellin-like activity in carrots.

Larry worked for Washington State University for 35 years (1973–2008). While at WSU, Larry was researching and teaching vegetable and potato production, growth and development, physiology and nutrition, growth regulators, fertilizers, irrigation and plant-water relations, photosynthesis, weed control, minimum tillage and other production techniques. Larry is recognized as an expert on the causes and preventative practices surrounding potato physiological disorders such as hollow heart and brown center. He gained his reputation through research and literary contributions to the industry. His expertise came to fruition when he earned the lead author role for the chapter‘Physiological Disorders of Potato Tubers’ in Paul Li’s well known and respected ‘Potato Physiology’.

Larry extended his knowledge base and gained international stature through activities and membership in the European Association for Potato Research as well as his involvement in projects within Scotland, Uruguay, South America, Russia, and South Africa. Larry has been a member of the EAPR since 1990 and has attended multiple section meetings and annual conferences. Larry utilized sabbatical leave in 1993/94 to pursue collaborative research, studies, and literature review with the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee, Scotlandon intra- and extra-cellular potato morphology as it relates to nutrients, water, and tuber defects. Combining his experience abroad with that gained in the US, Larry has developed a proficient understanding of potato and vegetable production.

Close to 80% of Larry’s professional time was dedicated to teaching. In his teachings at WSU, he introduced students to horticultural science and vegetable crops and extended their knowledge by walking them through advanced horticultural crop physiology and vegetable seed production. He provided upperclassmen with a strong foundation in potato science, physiology, and production technology. Twenty graduate students studied under Larry and 13 of those returned to serve the potato industry as professionals. He served on 37 MS and 14 PhD committees at WSU. As an advisor, he mentored between 25 and 40 undergraduate horticulture students per year for a solid 25 years. Larry’s teaching has been evaluated highly by students and administration alike.

Larry has demonstrated his commitment to the potato industry by being active in the PAA for 38 years and attending 34 annual PAA conferences. Of those 38 years, Larry dedicated 16 to the PAA Executive Committee moving through the ranks of Director, VP, Pres. Elect, Pres., and Past Pres. He continues to donate his time and experience to the Executive Committee by serving as PAA Treasurer. Larry has also chaired the following PAA committees orsections: Local Arrangements Committee, International Relations Committee, and Physiology and Production and Management Sections. He has also served on additional PAA committees and held many offices within the sections previously mentioned.

Mark J. Pavek, Nominator