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Carissa OlsenPresident and CEO NoKota Packers, Inc
Carissa was appointed president and CEO of NoKota Packers Inc., following the retirement of Steve Tweten in December 2019. NoKota Packers is a third-generation packer and shipper of red potatoes in the Red River Valley of North Dakota, and an exclusive supplier of Side Delights potatoes.
Olsen assumed the role of COO in February of 2017, following six years as director of operations. She joined the company 15 years ago as an administrative assistant. During her career at NPI, Olsen has been active in the community with leadership roles, including church council trustee, president of daycare board, president of booster clubs and treasurer of H509 scholarship board. Olsen graduated summa cum laude from Mayville State University with a bachelor’s degree in business education in 2003. She is also a graduate of the Dale Carnegie business immersion course and the Dale Carnegie leadership for managers course.
“Having spent my entire career at this company, I am honored to move into this role of president and CEO. Starting as an administrative assistant and working my way through various parts of the business—food safety, HR, employee safety, grower relations, shipping and billing, and accounting have helped me immensely with the nuts and bolts of the business operations,” Olsen said. “My father, who will retire at the end of this season, was NoKota’s first employee, so I grew up around the business, following him while he worked in the plant and touring potato fields. Pairing my experience in various roles with my knowledge of the history and current operations has prepared me thoroughly for this position.”
In 1978, Malcolm Tweten and his brother-in-law Maurice Gjelsness had an innovative idea. Both farmers had been growing potatoes in the Buxton and Reynolds area for a long time, and wanted to market their own potato crop. They started to kick around the idea of a potato warehouse/washplant facility in Buxton, ND. Together with their sons Steve Tweten and Ron Gjelsness on board, NoKota Packers, Inc. began to take shape.
During our first season in the fall of 1979, we stored potatoes in a facility that was still unfinished, represented 4 local farming operations, shipped 220,000 hundred weight of potatoes and employed 18 employees. Today, we have more than doubled in size, work with 5 different growers, have the ability to ship 600,000+ hundred weight of potatoes and employ around 35 employees throughout the year.
As we grew in product and building size we also added two partners. Tim Lee, employed as Washplant Manager since 1979, became a partner and vice president in 1991. Kendall Gjelsness, Maurice Gjelsness’s son became a partner after Maurice passed away in 1993. Malcolm Tweten passed away in 2013. Steve continues as President and Head of Sales and Ron as Secretary/Treasurer and in charge of transportation and storage. Mike Moen has been our Grower Representative since 1994.
We started NoKota Packers, Inc. in 1979 as a family business and it is still a family business today. This shows in our service, work ethic and uncompromising commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. We look back with satisfaction at our decision to promote Red River Valley red potatoes and we are excited about continuing our involvement in such a dynamic industry.