International potato success

From a modest potato farmer to international capitalist, Ron Offutt says his success has come on the backs of strong partnerships

International farmer and businessman, Ron Offutt contributes his success to strong partnerships, finding marketplace voids and focusing on customer satisfaction.

“What has been a key to our success has been looking for a void in the marketplace and finding a way to fill that void,” said Offutt on the final day of Manitoba Potato Production Days on January 28 in Brandon.

From his family potato farm, Offutt has created a lucrative farm enterprise both domestically and internationally.

“To truly be successful you need to have customer satisfaction. It is not an option. It is what you build your business on,” he said.

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Growing up in Moorhead, Minnesota, he began farming with his dad after high school graduation.

“I learnt an immense amount from my father. He taught me the ropes and what it really meant to run the family farm,” said Offutt. “At the time I got into potato production, the country was on the edge of tremendous growth in the french fry industry and any time you are in a sector with that kind of growth it becomes much easier to grow and grow successfully,” said Offutt.

Offutt founded Emeritus, which today is the United States’ largest producer of potatoes and holds farm operations in nine states, which total 190,000 acres, and includes a 34,000-acre, 25,000-cow dairy operation.

As his business grew, he began to diversify into food-processing and retail equipment.

“I reached a point where I realized, if I was going to survive in this game, I was going to have to build my own french fry plant,” he said.

Offutt operates a number of food-processing manufacturing operations and markets his products through Simplot, McCain Foods, Frito-Lay, Con-Agra/Lamb-Weston.

“We continue to be an effective company today because we are always seeking out ways to climb the value chain and integrate different aspects of it into our business,” said Offutt.

In 2006, he began a joint venture with Calbee Corporation and built a processing plant in Boardman, Oregon that sells snack food to Japan.

Since that time the business has expanded, building two additional plants in the U.S. and acquiring a 22,000-acre farm in Russia.

“Partnerships are the reason I have been so successful. Any time I have begun a new venture I have found myself the best possible person to work with and that has made all of the difference. You can’t do everything on your own,” said Offutt.

Along the way, Offutt also founded RDO Equipment, the largest network of John Deere equipment dealers. Today, RDO has 80 dealership locations throughout the U.S., as well as partnerships in the Ukraine, Russia and Australia.

Offutt says he is proud of the business he has created and is also happy to see his children flourish in the enterprise.

“After all these years, we are still a family business, a family farm. My children are involved in different aspects of the business and have brought skills to the table that I have never had. They have been able to continue to evolve the business,” said Offutt.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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