Date: Jul 18, 2013

Don Johnston, a longtime leader for Western Growers and in the California potato industry, passed away on Tuesday, July 16, after several difficult years, including the death of his wife, Gail Johnston, last fall.

Mr. Johnston was born in Portland, OR, on Feb. 22, 1933, where his father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad in perishable sales.  The family moved to Bakersfield when Don was 14 and Johnston Farms was founded.  Don went to high school in Bakersfield and then the University of Pacific in Stockton, where he played basketball.  In 1955, he joined the family business and spent his life dedicated to improving the industry. The family business grew over the years and included the growing of potatoes, peppers, wheat, cotton and a variety of citrus products. 

Don Johnston served on the Western Growers and the Western Growers Assurance Trust boards for many years and was the WG Chairman of the Board in 1977.   Matt McInerney, WG executive vice president, said Mr. Johnston “was integral to our growth in the ‘70s and for many of the programs, such as our government affairs focus, and all the various products and services today that assist farmers to remain competitive and profitable.  He was beloved by WG staff for all that he did for Western Growers, and was a man of great character and integrity.”

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