Farmers Share a Name -- and a
by Matthew Weaver
Joe Anderson of Potlatch, Idaho, and Joe Anderson of Genesee, Idaho, share more than the same name.
They’re fourth-generation wheat farmers and leaders in the industry.
Go to any Pacific Northwest wheat industry meeting and you're likely to hear people talking about Joe Anderson.
But which Joe Anderson do they mean? Two Joe Andersons live in Idaho, where they grow wheat near each other, and they are both active in industry organizations.
One Joe -- Paul "Joe" Anderson -- farms near Potlatch, Idaho. He was named after his grandfather, Paul Jonathan Anderson Sr. and father, Paul Jonathan Anderson Jr.
"My parents decided to call me 'Joe' to avoid confusion," he said. "That effort was only partially successful."
The other Joe -- Joseph Anderson -- farms near Genesee, Idaho, 40 miles from the other Joe Anderson.
To keep the two straight, they're known in industry circles as "Potlatch Joe" and "Genesee Joe."
Potlatch Joe, 74, farms 3,400 acres with his son Cody.
Genesee Joe, 59, farms 4,400 acres near Genesee and Lewiston in partnership with his brother.
Potlatch Joe will mark his 50th year of farming this fall.
Genesee Joe has farmed 34 years.
Both are University of Idaho graduates, and both are fourth-generation dryland farmers.
"We've got so damn many things in common, it's uncanny, isn't it?" Potlatch Joe told Genesee Joe with a chuckle as the two sat outside a coffee shop on an April morning in Moscow, Idaho.
Uncanny is the word. Potlatch Joe is president of the Idaho Grain Producers Association and used to be on the Idaho Wheat Commission.
Genesee Joe is on the wheat commission and used to be on the grain producers association executive board.
Potlatch Joe has been a member of the grain producers association as long as he's farmed and joined the executive board in 2014. He joined the wheat commission in 2002, recommended for the position by Genesee Joe.
Genesee Joe joined the grain producers association in 1999 and held executive positions in 2009-2013. He joined the commission in 2014, replacing Potlatch Joe, and served as chairman in 2016.
The Joes have never served on the same board at the same time but both have served as the wheat commission's liaison to the association.
Does having the same name ever cause a problem?
"Oh, a couple of times," Genesee Joe said.
Once in a while, one Joe will get an email intended for the other Joe. And Potlatch Joe once accidentally canceled a hotel reservation made by Genesee Joe.
"I got ready to check in and they had me down for two rooms," he said. "I hadn't thought about it and I said, 'There must be a mistake there.'" On a previous occasion, the commission made a reservation for him, and he'd made a reservation for himself. So he canceled the "extra" room.
When Genesee Joe checked in later, he didn't have a room, but the hotel accommodated him, Potlatch Joe said.
He's since begun to register at hotel meetings as "Potlatch Joe."
"It turns out hotel clerks have a hard time believing two people are going to check in with the same name on the same date," Genesee Joe said.
Not everything about the two Joes is exactly the same.
Genesee Joe begins wheat harvest around July 20 south of Lewiston and harvests near Genesee around Aug. 9.
Potlatch Joe begins his harvest around Aug. 1.
"We farm in completely different environments, in terms of soil type particularly," Potlatch Joe said.
"We have wheat in common, but our rotational crops have been a little different," Genesee Joe said. He plants chickpeas and spring wheat, while Potlatch Joe tends to plant more grass.
Potlatch Joe has been married to his wife, Pam, for 54 years.
Genesee Joe and his wife, Leslie, were married on Feb. 18.
Genesee Joe enjoys riding motorcycles and river rafting. He and Leslie also like to tool around in a recreational vehicle and go hiking.
Potlatch Joe and Pam go dancing, although not as often as they used to. Pam is on the board of directors of Clearwater Power Co., and he tries to go with her when she travels.
The Joes went to a dance hall during the 2017 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas, as part of a small group.
"It was fun," Genesee Joe said. "(Potlatch Joe is) kinda modest, but he's probably still likely to be the best dancer you'd see out on the floor."
When Genesee Joe and Leslie were married, Potlatch Joe and Pam attended their wedding reception.
But the two farmers mostly see each other at industry meetings.
"The wheat business brings us together many times over the winter," Genesee Joe said.
"We find ourselves at the same places quite a lot," Potlatch Joe agreed.
Despite the names, there's no relation between the two Joes.
Potlatch Joe is of Scottish descent, while Genesee Joe is of Norwegian ancestry.
But their connection still spans generations.
Genesee Joe's father, Andy, was one of Potlatch Joe's mentors. Before he even started farming, Potlatch Joe toured Andy Anderson's farm and hog-feeding operation as part of a university soils class.
"And by the way, my dad was (called) Andy as well," Potlatch Joe said.
Also, Potlatch Joe's grandson now works for a fertilizer company in Potlatch. Before that, he worked for the same company in Genesee, where he and Genesee Joe got to know each other.
Genesee Joe on Potlatch Joe: "We all have examples, or mentors, that helped form us, and I'd be proud to say that Potlatch Joe is one of my mentors," Genesee Joe said.
In particular, he said he's learned about the political and research processes from Potlatch Joe.
"Those are two things that I listen real closely to when he's speaking," he said.
Potlatch Joe on Genesee Joe: Potlatch Joe wasn't ready to leave the wheat commission, and says he likely never would have.
"I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said. "It was a real opportunity to make some differences."
He served concurrently on both the commission and grain producers association's boards for seven months in 2014. Only when Genesee Joe became available to join the commission did Potlatch Joe feel comfortable resigning.
"I was confident he was going to carry on a whole lot of the things that were important to me, and to the industry," Potlatch Joe said. "And he's done that."
Both Joes possess a wealth of knowledge, said Blaine Jacobson, executive director of the wheat commission.
"The wheat industry is made more robust by having both of them involved in leadership positions in the state," Jacobson said.
Potlatch Joe brings "great perspective," Jacobson said.
"He knows things that have been tried, he knows things that have been successful, yet at the same time, he's not locked into tradition," Jacobson said. "He's an innovator in bringing new technologies into wheat, and so the entire Pacific Northwest benefits because of his endless curiosity."
Genesee Joe brings optimism and positivity, Jacobson said.
"I've never seen anybody be able to click with a customer the way Genesee Joe does. He's got a knack for building a rapport with visiting trade teams (or) out making a visit at their place of business," Jacobson said. "I visited one customer with him and within 15 or 20 minutes, the two of them were making plans to go on a motorcycle ride."
The minister of the church Potlatch Joe attended while growing up was also named Joe Anderson.
"That really got confusing," Potlatch Joe said. "Between seventh and eighth grade, I'd gone to 4-H camp and met this girl. We were corresponding with love letters back and forth, and the preacher got one of them. So having a name the same can be pluses and minuses."
Did the preacher say anything?
"Oh yeah," Potlatch Joe said. "I never did live that down."
Some of Potlatch Joe's winter wheat looks good, while some got way too much moisture. He was unable to plant "a fair amount" of spring wheat, due to 7 inches of rain that fell in March.
He doesn't expect his winter wheat to yield anywhere near as much as last year's crop.
Genesee Joe's wheat benefited from recent sunshine and warm weather. He predicts his yields will vary.
"Some fields will be above average, and then some suffered from excess moisture," he said. "They'll struggle to hit average."
Genesee Joe and his new bride recently moved to a house near Lewiston, but he and his brother will continue to farm their land near Genesee. He expects to still be known as "Genesee Joe."
Both Joes speak highly of the connections they've forged.
"Teams that are successful like each other," Potlatch Joe said.
"That respect morphs into friendships," Genesee Joe said.
Farmers Share a Name -- and a Wealth of Knowledge About Wheat Industry by Matthew Weaver, Capital Press, 6/8/17
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