John Griffin’s latest position with the World Potato Congress is a continuation of a lifelong career of volunteering.
John Griffin has always been known as the guy that people can rely on to help out. Over the years he’s been called on to volunteer for a number of association boards and he has always been the one to step up.
“I guess it’s a way of life I didn’t think it was a lot, I did it over 20 or 30 years,” Griffin explains in a phone interview.
Over the years he has served on numerous groups from agricultural associations to local community clubs. Some of these include being a board member for the Prince Edward Island Agricultural Insurance Corporation, president of the Rotary Club of Summerside, a director with the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, president of the P.E.I. Grain Elevator Corporation and a council member with Farm Products Council of Canada.
His latest volunteering foray is being named as the president and CEO of the World Potato Congress (WPC). Griffin has been a member of the WPC for the past 14 years and served on the board in various roles, most recently as vice president.
“Being there a bunch of years and playing a good role you get asked (to be president), and I was asked to be that, and I was vice president for a long time, and then (this stint as president will) be my last event,” Griffin says.
For the WPC board it made sense to pick Griffin as the next president. Peter VanderZaag, who has been named WPC vice president, says Griffin is the longest serving board of directors’ member, so they group wanted to honour him for his service.
Griffin’s main task as president will be finding a new executive director. Brian Douglas, the current executive director is resigning within the next year, so Griffin will oversee putting together a search committee to find Douglas’ replacement.
“For the Congress, he has been a very stable force especially on the management and financial side of the organization. He’s been very good at keeping the Congress, the operation, on target with its finances and the fine details of how it should run,” VanderZaag explains. “John is not really an international man. But he’s really the person who helps keep the home fires burning properly.”
Griffin’s assistance on the business side for WPC isn’t that surprising considering his job on his family’s farm.
Griffin is the president of W.P. Griffin Inc., a potato farming and packaging business in Elmsdale, P.E.I. They farm 4,500 acres of crops with 1,850 acres of fresh potatoes with a few contracted to Cavendish Farms, along with having a 500 head cattle feedlot which they grow barley, wheat, and hay for. They pack their own fresh potatoes, along with some they buy, that are then sold in W.P. Griffin Inc. packaging in grocery stores across the Maritimes, eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
The farm was initially started by Griffin’s father Wilfred in 1947. Griffin became involved in the family business in 1987 after graduating from Saint Mary’s University with a bachelor of commerce degree.
“At first it was mainly a warehouse. And then mainly they patched for other operators. And then they started to grow some (potatoes), and they’ve got growing more and more,” Griffin explains.
Griffin and his brother, Peter, ran the farm together, expanding it, until Peter’s retirement in 2017. Griffin’s son Colton is the current vice president of the farm, his brother-in-law Troy Smallman is the farm manager, and Smallman’s children, Ashton Perry and Hayden Smallman, work in management training positions.