A spud-tacular achievement

The Maine Potato Board names alumnus and his family the Farm Family of the Year
Story by Melinda Marcelo ('04)
Photos by Michele Stapleton

Dawn and Jeff Campbell with their two sons.

Dawn and Jeff Campbell with their two sons.

When you hear the potato chip adage "you can't eat just one," alumnus Jeffrey Campbell ('87) is delighted. This fourth-generation potato farmer from Exeter, Maine, sells his harvest to Frito-Lay Inc. for making Lays Chips, and his family's hard work and quality control earned them the 2004 Farm Family of the Year title by the Maine Potato Board.

"Farming is in my blood," says Campbell, a fourth generation farmer who credits his father for helping them earn the award. "My father was very active with leadership roles in local, state, and national potato organizations," says Campbell.

In the past five years, the Campbell Farms, whose acreage has tripled to 600 acres of potatoes, has not only produced high quality potatoes but consistently exceeds market standards. "The actual growing of the crops is the easiest part of the job," says Campbell, "The key to success is being able to market your crops at a profitable price."

The farm, which sells its potatoes to Frito-Lay, was actually purchased in 1917 by Campbell's great-grandfather who grew potatoes, wheat, hay and livestock. Then, in the '60s, his uncle purchased the farm and continued to grow potatoes. Eventually, in the '70s, Campbell's father and mother, Brian and Sheila Campbell, leased the farm, growing 100 acres of potatoes. In 1982, his father purchased the farm that Jeff would return to work at after graduating from JMU with a bachelor's degree in economics.

Campbell and his wife, Dawn, formed Campbell Farms in 1999 to begin farming on their own. They not only grow potatoes, but oats and winter rye as well. The couple has two sons, Cole and Brody.

The Campbells added a new storage facility a few years ago and upgraded a second facility with humid cells and fans to prolong their potatoes storage life. Seth Bradstreet III, president of the Maine Potato Board, says, "There is a lot of heritage there on the farm. The Campbells have been very successful here in Maine; and Brian has also been very successful for the Maine industry on the national level."

The hardest aspect about farming, according to Jeff, is the long hours of work that keep him away from Dawn and their two boys. Farming also leaves little time for hobbies, but when he does have free time, he and his family enjoy camping on Moosehead Lake and going to Portland Sea Dogs minor leagues baseball games.

At the same time, Campbell says "One of the reasons I love to farm is because there is no such thing as an average day. Over the years, we have a routine of planting, caring for, and harvesting our crops, but we are not stuck doing one specific chore week after week. I may be behind a desk one day and behind the steering wheel of a tractor the next day."