Zach Holden has been working with the Potato Research Group since 2005. A 2004 graduate of WSU’s program in Elementary Education, Zach is a native of the Palouse region. He loves the outdoors and especially fishing. “My father and I have been fishing the North Fork of the Clearwater River for 20 years,” he says. Zach says his dad has a kind of sixth sense and can tell where the big fish are hanging out.
“I have two wonderful kids,” Zach says, Maverick and Cece, who keep him busy when he’s not working. Now that COVID has parents schooling their kids, Zach gets to draw on his teaching degree.
Watching his children grow is like the process he’s seen with moving a new potato from single plant to widely grown commercial variety. “Not many spuds make it out of trials,” he says, but he’s helped nurture Clearwater russet, now widely grown for French fires and enjoyed all over the world, since it was a single hill. Zach says, “It takes 12 to 14 years to move a new variety” through the rigorous selection process.
Zach says he enjoys the gamut of potato research, from supervising seed cutting in the spring to harvesting tubers in the fall, all the while processing evaluation data in every other spare moment. “We always listen to what the growers need,” he says. “There’s always a new challenge, from diseases to climate change.” But maybe the most satisfying part is setting up an experiment in the spring, running it throughout the growing season, and learning the results at or after harvest. “You never know if it’s going to work” until the tubers are out of the ground and ready for inspection by the keen-eyed evaluation team.