We are in the potato-growing areas of central and north central Minnesota. We came together starting in 2005. We have experienced health effects from pesticide drift. We have also seen health effects on animals, both domestic and wild. Our water has become polluted with high nitrate levels.

The pesticides that are harming us and our environment are drifting from potato fields owned by Ronald D. Offutt, or RDO, the largest potato grower in the world and one of McDonald’s leading potato suppliers.

Two groups, Minnesotans for Pesticide Awareness and a group from the White Earth Nation, have used Drift Catchers to monitor the problem of pesticides drifting into our communities. In 2012 Pesticide Action Network released a report documenting the findings from our Drift Catching. The data showed that our communities are breathing chlorothalonil, a fungicide widely used on potatoes, as well as several other chemicals.

Calling for Safer Taters

We are calling attention to this issue in our community, looking for a decrease in pesticide drift into our homes, schools and communities. Right now, we are focused on potato production, but we know production of other crops can cause pesticide drift too. And we know there are safer, healthier ways to produce the food we all need. We seek to encourage agricultural production that does not harm people or animals (domestic and wild), or pollute the air or water. We would like everyone to have food without pesticide residue. As one member has said, “Pesticides are designed to kill. They just don’t know when to stop.”

We want food grown in ways that are healthy for all of us.


 Kaitlyn Grenier - Grant-writer/Development:
Kaitlyn has worked for the White Earth Land Recovery Project as a grant writer for almost 2 years. Prior to her employment, she volunteered at White Earth Land Recovery Project and Red Lake Nation intermittently since 2011. She resides in Bemidji in the summer and Chesapeake Beach during the school year where her 3 children attend school. While on the east coast, Kaitlyn managed a small organic Community Supported Agriculture farm. She is passionate about land stewardship and cultural revitalization, and excited to start her work with Toxic Taters in November of 2017. 
   Zachary Paige - Development Coordinator
Zachary Paige is the development coordinator for Toxic Taters under a part-time position. He has worked with the development and grant-writing for the non-profit White Earth Land Recovery for the past 5 years and is an organic farmer in Minnesota.

We are currently interviewing candidates for our coordinator position. Our last full-time coordinator, Michael Fairbanks, is now the tribal chairperson of the White Earth Nation! This position will take on the responsibilities of holding meetings with the communities we work with and come up with collective strategies. We are confident with our healthy list of candidates and the strength of our board, that we will find the right person for the job and announce the hired person by April, 2020.
  Willa Childress - Minnesota Organizer of Pesticide Action Network North America.
Willa doesn't work directly for Toxic Taters organization, but her support is invaluable and helps as a bridge between our organization and our fiscal sponsor - Pesticide Action Network North America. Willa provides insight and organizational history and has provided support on numerous projects. She has worked in her current position for over five years.


Beverly St. John: Lead Board Member - Bev has on the board of Toxic Taters for over 4 years. She is native from the White Earth community, lives in Waubun, MN and is deeply invested in the health of her community. She works at the White Earth Community College and is interested in learning how we can protect our greatest resources; clean drinking water as well as protect against pesticide drift, which happens too often in her community. Deb is a proud mother of four beautiful children and loves to spend time in the Minnesota forests medicine picking and foraging with them, some of her favorite past times are on spending time at the lakes in Minnesota with her feet in the hot sand. 

TT profile photoDeb Dorman - Campaign Coordinator:  
Deb Dorman is a descendant from the Bois Forte band of Ojibwe in Minnesota. She completed nursing school in 1993 and worked in that field for 10 years. She also worked for the city of Fargo as the Native American Liaison to the Gladys Ray shelter where she dealt closely with the Native homeless population bringing guests medicine picking and to sweat lodges along with various other cultural activities. During this time Deb also organized several events for Idle No More, VDAY, and One Billion Rising campaign. She was an activist at NoDAPL Standing Rock with her daughter in 2016 and has spent a lot of time organizing on the ground. 

Andrew Hayner: 
Sustainable farmer and advocate for clean water and no-chemicals. He is interested in becoming a board member at our next board meeting on May 2nd, 2020 and helping by sharing sustainable practices that farmers can do in the area besides spraying chemicals. We are happy that Andy is going to join us and willing to share his knowledge of sustainable farming in a meaningful way to the communities we serve.

Carol Ashley:
Carol lived near potato fields by Park Rapids, MN for about 18 years and suffered from pesticide drift most of those years. She started working on this issue in 2004.  She finally decided she had to move in spite of living within walking distance of aging parents and in spite of having a 38-year connection to that particular 15 acres of land where she gardened and ran a small business. She continues to live in the Park Rapids area though further from the fields.

Denis Liftin: 
Denis is a retired high school teacher/coach/administrator from three different Minnesota public schools. Served in the U.S. Army.  Lost my wife to cancer 3+ years ago, has a daughter and a son, both living in the Twin Cities area.  Served on various boards,  councils, and committees in the public sector. Presently I have a home on Crystal Lake, West of Hackensack and also in  Ironwood Township in the U.P.  of  Michigan and  I divide my time between the two, year-round. I enjoy the outdoors all seasons and most of my reading centers on non-fiction books, periodicals, and the internet. I am interested in guarding our environment and wildlife from the ravages of corporate greed and maleficence as well as from the negatives of population intrusion into the North woods.

Toxic Taters is a grassroots organization.  That means that we are led by the people affected and staff is really just there to support the work of the community.  Everyone is welcome to take part in our monthly meetings which take place in Park Rapids, Pine Point, and Wadena.  In order to vote individuals must have attended at least 2 prior meetings. (Staff is not allowed to vote.)  For those unable to attend meetings there are many other ways to get involved.  Just contact us and we'll find a way to work together. 

The following are our core leaders:

Norma & Don Smith:
Norma & Don moved their family to a small farm in Otter Tail County in 1976. They bought their first sheep the next year and for 18 years sold enough lambs to make their farm payment. In 1995, 11 irrigation systems were installed in a 4 square mile area and potatoes planted all around them. The fields were sprayed every week by an airplane. They soon experienced hundreds of dead birds. Frogs disappeared and the bee population declined.  Their lambs began to die.  With effort, they finally got someone to respond to their calls at the MN Agriculture Dept. and were told that a million-dollar potato crop was worth more than their little flock of sheep.


Fiscal Sponsor Liaison

Toxic Taters works closely with our fiscal sponsor Pesticide Action Network with support from their Minneapolis office. Our fiscal sponsor also does not have a vote in meetings. 


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