Steve M TwetenCEO NoKota Packers, Inc
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.
Our packaging has also changed since we started. In the beginning we sold most of our potatoes under our own brand names, Buxton’s Best, NoKota Pride, Roughrider and Bully Brand. Once buyers saw how good our product was and the commitment we have to ship out a high quality potato, they started to approach us to pack in their private labels. Today, we pack about 85% of our potatoes under our customers’ names.
With the additions of working with more growers and shipping more potatoes we needed more storage. Our first addition was made in 1993 and there have been three other additions, in 1994, 1996 and 2011, since then. Although we have made physical changes to the storage and washplant, the concept remains the same – our potatoes are stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment to maintain quality throughout the season.
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.