Following nearly two years of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, self-imposed shutdowns and accompanying government quarantines, the National Potato Council held its Potato Expo 2022 in Anaheim, California, on January 5-6.

The NPC had cancelled its 2021 Expo, to be held in Dallas. The Anaheim Expo represented an attempt by the NPC to begin a return to public gatherings following nearly two years of the ongoing pandemic.

The chair of the 2022 Expo was Britt Raybould, of St. Anthony, Idaho. Raybould is also a past president of the NPC.

“Given the circumstances in which we were trying to pull off a live event after the disruptions of the past two years it was great to see everybody come together and have it be as successful as it was,” Raybould said following the conclusion of the Expo.

Planning for the Expo proceeded with cautious optimism despite the December impact that the omicron variant of the coronavirus had on travel plans across the nation.

“I would say from that standpoint we did incredibly well,” Raybould said of the impact from omicron. “We had a really supportive group of folks who were willing to participate and to show their support for our industry. The cancellations we had were due to people just physically not being able to get there because of the weather.”

On the floor of the Expo, NPC President Dominic LaJoie, of Van Buren, Maine, said that it was important to get the event back on track.

“Obviously we’re excited to get the Expo back up and running,” LaJoie said. “Very good support from all our sponsorship, all our booths, our companies that have invested time and money to come here had a lot of positive feedback the last couple of days, which is encouraging so we’re excited to keep this Expo moving forward.”

He said that the Expo represents an opportunity for vendors and growers to get together annually to see and hear about the latest trends and newest developments.

“There’s a lot of new technology coming. There’s a lot of things that are happening so fast in the industry and this show really puts it out there for growers to make decisions on the upcoming growing season to maybe try some of this new stuff. It’s all focused on saving growers money,” he said.

LaJoie expressed guarded optimism that the pandemic will soon be just a distant memory in the nation’s rear-view mirror.

“We’re looking forward to next year and hopefully we’re on the other end of this virus and bring in more people,” he said. “I think for the industry it’s a critical show and support of growers and vendors and sponsorship is critical at this time, especially after what we’ve been through the last two years.”

Raybould said that this year’s Expo experience could be a harbinger of future large public meetings.

“I think this event was a demonstration of what large gatherings like this might look like going forward,” she said. “Where you plan and do everything that’s within your control to pull off an in-person event but recognize that there may be things that may come up that are outside of your control.”

Byron Duffin, president of Double L Manufacturing, based in Burley, Idaho, said that it was good to have the Expo but frustrating at the same time due to the almost daily changes in the COVID landscape.

“I think the frustrating thing is that there’s still so many things, one day we’re good to go and the next day, ‘Oh, COVID’s taken over again,’” he said.

Duffin said that it’s time to resume the public gatherings and expressed slight frustration at the number of attendees.

“It’s good to get back out and get the ball rolling again and it’s good to see the few people that did attend the Expo. The NPC was good and we had some good business. We were able to have some good conversations on what’s going on in the industry and the world. But it was frustrating because it was not very well attended.”

With the national show now behind Duffin said that the staff at Double L will be on the road for the next six weeks attending various state conferences.

Duffin said he is looking forward to next week’s Idaho Potato Conference and Eastern Idaho Ag Show in Pocatello. That will be followed by the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference as well as the North Dakota, Wisconsin and Colorado conferences.

“I hope to see a lot better attendance at these shows,” he said.

Jeff Miller of Miller Research, based in Rupert, Idaho, debuted a video about the Potato Association of America and gave a presentation at the Expo on managing dry rot in Clearwater Russet, a new potato variety.

And while he was disappointed in the attendance numbers, Miller wanted to focus on returning to a new normal of meeting in public again.

“The reason I went I felt the things they (NPC) did were adequate,” Miller said, “I feel like we’ve taken the precautions we need to and let’s move on.”

He said that he will be participating in six sessions at the Idaho Potato Conference next week in the Pond Student Union on the Idaho State University campus.

Recommended for you