Hampton Potato Growers, LLC (989-893-0963) is owned and operated by William and Mari Sue Johnson. The farm is located in Bay and Tuscola counties and produces 1,200 acres of potatoes along with additional acres of corn and sugar beets. The vast majority of potatoes are contracted to potato chip processing plants located in Michigan, Ohio, and the East Coast. The largest processor relationships are with Better Made Snack Foods in Detroit and Shearer’s Foods in Ohio with other plants as far as the East Coast.
Bill Johnson has been a lifelong agricultural producer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Bill began farming independently in 1977, a few years after high school, and grew potatoes, melons, and other vegetables. He purchased his first farm where the wash plant and main potato storages are located in 1982 and gradually transitioned to a major chip potato producer.
The farm has nine full-time employees and nine part-time employees that share responsibilities with From Buds To Blooms Greenhouse, the largest retail greenhouse in Bay County, also owned and operated by Bill and Mari Sue Johnson. Sharing labor between the two businesses is able to keep the work force more fully employed due to different operational schedules throughout the year. At the peak harvest and storage period, the farm will employ approximately 35 part-time employees. Most of these have returned for many years to drive harvest trucks and grade and store potatoes during September and October.
The farm's origins date back to the Great Depression, when Anthony and Mary Jane (Finn) Johnson were truck farmers on a farm located near Essexville. With the help of their seven children, the family grew an assortment of vegetables, including tablestock and chipping potatoes. They sold produce locally and at the Flint Market and Eastern Market in Detroit. In 1940, they began delivering chip potatoes to Ever Crisp Potato Chip Co. and New Era Potato Chip Co. in Detroit.
By the mid-1940s, sons Robert and Harold began developing land 8 miles east of their parents' farm close to Saginaw Bay. Although fertile soil, the land needed to be protected from rising waters of the bay by being ditched and banked. After several years of construction, including making an irrigation system, the first potato crop was harvested in 1949. In 1960, Harold and Robert became the sole supplier of chip potatoes to Made Rite Potato Chip Co. from July through December each year. The two brothers ran the farm until retiring in 1980.
Currently, the farm is managed by Harold's son, Billy, who maintains his family's tradition of quality potatoes.