As an Idaho based company, Potandon’s senior leadership team had envisioned a day when the company could give back to the state and communities in which we live that have provided so much. Potandon Produce is surrounded by community organizations and members who make our area such a great place to live, work and raise a family. In March of 2012, those visions of giving back came to fruition with the establishment of the Potandon Foundation. Housed through the Idaho Community Foundation, the Potandon Foundation contributes to organizations throughout our area that regularly and selflessly give back to those in need. The primary focus of the Potandon Foundation is to support programs, organizations and not for profits serving children and families in crisis. Since its launch, the foundation has donated over $75,000 to local organizations who exemplify serving the community members of Idaho.
The Potandon Foundation is able to make these contributions due to the generosity of Potandon employees, owners, and community partners. As of December 2019, Potandon employees contributed over $56,000 through payroll deductions alone. Community stewardship has always been a bedrock with Potandon employees who regularly volunteer their time and wages (as shown with the Potandon Foundation). Many employees regularly serve their communities by participating in office food and coat drives, serving hot meals and providing Christmas gifts to families in need.
It is a goal of the foundation to continue supporting our communities in which we live. Southeast Idaho serves as an example of how tight knit communities come together to help those in need and the Potandon Foundation is honored to be a part of that!
The Potandon Foundation has supported the following organizations:
• Bingham Crisis Center for Women
• Building Hope Today
• CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
• Community Outreach Center
• HELP, Inc.
• Hospice of Eastern Idaho
• Idaho Diabetes Youth Program
• Idaho Falls Community Food Bank
• Idaho Legal Aid
• Relay for Life
• Shepherd’s Inn
• Snake River Animal Shelter
• The Center for HOPE
• The Goodfellow Fund
• The Idaho Meth Project
• The Salvation Army
Social responsibility is a duty that all able individuals and companies should perform as it benefits society. In order to maintain a healthy balance between business and community, the employees at Potandon Produce participate in multiple outreach programs in our local area, plus the company has invested in many different programs to support good causes over the years.
The culture of community stewardship is strong with our employees. They voluntarily offer their time, some of their wages, and their help with local organizations. Some past highlights include serving hot meals to homeless people at a local shelter and delivering food donations to various local charities through office canned food drives. Every year, the staff provides Christmas gifts for any families staying at a local family shelter, plus we have a regular hat, coat, and glove drive to help any disadvantaged people prepare for winter. One of our HR team members made a statement that says it all, “The employees at Potandon really get it. They enthusiastically help others and ask no recognition for it.”
The company also makes significant contributions to worthy causes in the form of financial donations, awareness campaigns, and more. Some of the programs we’ve supported in the past include The Breast Cancer Foundation, Autism Awareness, and most recently the Arbor Day Foundation.
After seeing the impact of wildfire devastation that annually hits America especially in the Western states, where millions of acres burn each year, Potandon decided to do something to help. Being an Idaho based company, our employees would regularly see smoke filling our air and our local news reports of properties being burned, businesses destroyed and people displaced. The aftermath of these fires left ghastly empty wide swaths of barren land in desperate need of help to recover. In 2015, Potandon sponsored a fundraising effort called The Arbor Day Challenge to raise money for replanting trees, with a generous donation coming from the company and an industry-wide call-out made to recruit other companies in the produce industry to join us.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among U.S. women. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women. Noting this, Potandon’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Ottum said, “Given the prevalence of breast cancer among U.S. women, we feel that promoting breast cancer awareness with our products is incredibly important. The more we can spread the word, the more lives can potentially be saved.”
In 2011 and 2012 Potandon sponsored a marketing campaign to raise money for Breast Cancer research. We produced pink-highlighted bags for two of our top selling items, Klondike Rose® and Klondike Goldust® and donated a percentage of the sales on those bags to research groups.
In 2012, Potandon joined with many other companies across America to support the Autism Society in raising awareness and funding for autism research. The month of April each year is national Autism Awareness month. The observance of this month-long period provides national, state, and local groups a center-stage opportunity to educate the public on the alarmingly high incident rate of autism spectrum disorders. The sheer amount of involvement, across the nation, in autism-related events is a testament to the collective efforts of organized groups, businesses, and individuals and families and their work toward improving the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. There is no known cause for autism, nor is there a “cure,” however autism is treatable, but requires early diagnosis and intervention. Research has shown that children who were introduced to early-intervention programs show tremendous progress and can eventually become mainstreamed into conventional education programs. Potandon had a special bag clip made with the familiar Autism puzzle ribbon on it to help with awareness plus made a significant financial donation to the cause.
Potandon has supported the Box Tops for Education program for many years by offering box tops on our Klondike Rose® potato items. The program provides financial resources for children and schools and has been A-rated based on its criteria and implementation.
Potandon also participates in a lesser known but very valuable program called Produce for Kids®. Produce for Kids® is dedicated to educating families on the benefits of healthy eating, providing simple meal solutions and raising money for children’s non-profit organizations. In the 14 years since its inception, Produce for Kids, through its produce and grocery retail partners, has donated more than $5.7 million to children’s charities nationwide.
A sustainable system, whether it be environmental, or of a similar type, should be able to endure indefinitely. Mother Nature has provided us with a blueprint on how to ensure we continue to be good stewards of the land, water resources, and energy sources. Many practices can be improved to show an overall benefit; some by introducing new technologies, some by changing business practices, and others by influencing human behavior and interaction with the world around us. Our philosophy at Potandon is one of continuous improvement in all areas of our business, including reducing both our water footprint and our carbon footprint.
Since we are an agriculturally-based company, land management is critical to our longevity. It’s for this reason that we make a concerted effort to implement any and all changes that show positive benefits. We work with industry leaders, universities and experts to continually improve our management of available resources, demonstrating in the process a level of leadership we hope will be emulated by our peers.
We use emerging technology and adhere to documented and means-tested farming protocols. We monitor pH and nutrient levels of the soil to make sure we only apply water and fertilizers as needed, instead of just a blanket schedule. Most of our farming activities take full advantage of technology to ensure we are optimizing all processes. State of the art irrigation systems allow for rapid adjustments in water flow and product applications that are weather sensitive. Drip irrigation is being utilized in our onion crop resulting in a reduction of our water use by up to 20% some years. Overhead center pivot irrigation used for our potato crops with specialized nozzles minimizes evaporation, drift and overspray. We also practice a very diverse crop rotation program that strengthens the soil naturally, including time for some fields to rest. Additionally, our development team is working tirelessly behind the scenes developing potato and onion varieties that require less water and resources to grow.
Our Agronomists monitor nutrient levels of the crops by collecting and analyzing tissue cultures. Both pesticide and fertilizer applications are adjusted throughout the season based on sampling of both the field and the plants. We use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program which is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to controlling diseases and pests. Using specific data collected at the farm and known information on the life cycles of the targeted pests, control methods are employed to deal with the insects with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment. This is regularly updated as change is a constant when evaluating insect populations.
Sustainability is not limited to activities outside. We take things seriously within our administrative offices and have instituted multiple programs over the years to reduce, reuse, and recycle. One of the largest and most successful programs we’ve benefitted from is our paperless document system, which allows for electronic storage of historical records and accounting summaries. Instead of boxes filled with paper sales orders, we now keep things saved on a server. We have a full time recycling program to recover anything which can be recycled according to local practices, including used printer cartridges, boxes, and fresh produce samples. Our main headquarters building is state-of-the-art with fluorescent lighting, timers, a high-efficiency HVAC system, and computer systems which are energy efficient.
Our fresh packing facilities handle potatoes and onion all year long and we continually make improvements to reduce energy use and water. All of our operations employ modern processes to capture and recycle wash water supply as part of our overall water management plan. Potatoes are washed to free them from field soil and the system is set up to recapture that soil and put it back in the fields as well as to clean and sanitize the water for reuse.
We’ve invested numerous man-hours and dollars in constantly refining our packaging program to produce the lowest cost and lowest impact packages we can source. Our poly bags are printed using water-based inks and our master containers are made from recycled materials. Our bags are manufactured right near our main office to reduce transportation miles. Corrugated or cardboard containers are sourced from suppliers that are part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI®) program. Any leftover or outdated packaging is recycled.
A business is more than just a combination of methods of production and products. Our employees are our most valuable resource and we manage many internal programs to nurture them. It starts with a safe and healthy work environment; a place where people feel comfortable and motivated. We have an industry-leading employee benefit program which focuses on employee wellness. Healthy and happy employees are critical to achieving high rates of productivity and Potandon Produce stands firmly behind its staff with monthly programs that promote wellness for all its employees and their families. Company sponsored programs such as tobacco cessation, weight management, exercise and nutrition challenges, sponsored 5k runs, hiking, biking, and other activities are all part of daily life at Potandon.
Additionally Potandon also provides a free annual wellness exam for all employees. Testing for Body Mass Index (BMI), Blood Pressure, and Total Cholesterol are standard and employees and their spouses can add additional testing from a broad list to address specific concerns. The program is administered by licensed professional healthcare providers. Additional support and counseling services are provided as needed depending on specific circumstances.
We also provide training opportunities both internally and externally. By helping employees with the cost of education, bringing in paid speakers to do local seminars, and offering job-specific training, the company leaders are making sure we have a highly talented next generation of employees who stand at the ready to move up the company ladder when called upon.