Honoring the 'face of Colorado potatoes'

Christina Herrick, produce editor for The Packer, presented Jim Ehrlich, at left, with the 2024 Potato Person of the Year award at the National Potato Council’s 2024 Washington Summit. Outgoing NPC President RJ Andrus, right, thanked Ehrlich for his nearly two decades of service to the potato industry.(Photo courtesy of National Potato Council)

'The Packer' honors Ehrlich

WASHINGTON — When presented the award as the 2024 Potato Person of the Year, Jim Ehrlich was speechless — well, almost.

“I’m extremely humbled,” he told The Packer, which presented the award Feb. 26 in conjunction with the National Potato Council during the 2024 NPC Washington Summit. “I have been so blessed to work for the potato industry and the wonderful people in the industry. I’ve made great friends from all across the country. There’s nothing more noble than producing food for people to eat."

Potato Person of the Year recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty during the past year to further the potato industry. Award winners have devoted a significant amount of time promoting potatoes to consumers and representing the industry on trade missions and in front of regulatory agencies.

Ehrlich, dubbed the “face of Colorado potatoes,” has served as the executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee for the past 18 years after the late Tom Ford approached him to take over the post. Ehrlich announced his plan to retire this year.

While he plans to step back, Ehrlich said he intends to stay connected to the industry.

“My roots are in agriculture deep,” he said.

Bob Mattive, NPC's incoming president, said he’s known Ehrlich for a long time, having somewhat similar paths to a career with potatoes. Mattive said Ehrlich is a selfless person whom many consult about for anything from marketing to legislative issues on state and national levels.

“He’s worked hard for our potato industry in Colorado and also on the national scene,” Mattive said. “He’s been very proactive. … People look to him as a resource if they need to find out something about potatoes in Colorado. Jim is their go-to person.”

Mattive said Ehrlich was instrumental in organizing a tour of Colorado packing facilities for a delegation from Mexico, which was a critical moment to build relationships as U.S. potato exports to Mexico grew. Ehrlich also helped organize tours for the EPA and Colorado legislators to help them better understand the concerns and needs of the potato industry, Mattive said.

“Jim has really been good about bringing those people to the [San Luis Valley in Colorado] to get a firsthand view of some of the things that we do to produce potatoes,” he said.

Ehrlich held previous roles with Coors Brewing Co. and JDE Farms. He also gives back to the community as vice president of San Luis Valley Health Hospital's board of directors and as the current president of the San Luis Valley Overall Extension Advisory Board, where he has served as a board member for more than 20 years.

When asked what his favorite memory of his time with the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Ehrlich said he fondly enjoyed his time in Washington, D.C., over the years at NPC’s Washington Summit, as well as some of the things he and his fellow Colorado delegates experienced.

“We actually left one of our fellow growers at the airport one day on our flight back. And then we had another grower that was sick on the plane, and we kept downplaying it, and he had to have his gallbladder removed the next day," he said. "It’s just the friendships you make and the experiences you have. They’ve been awesome.”

 


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