Szawlowski Potato Farms, Inc. was started by a Polish immigrant, John R. (JR) Szawlowski, in 1910. The farm has weathered changing economies, new lifestyles, and even the seizure of the original farm for an industrial park development. Now the largest potato grower in Massachusetts, it is owned by three grandsons of JR and is operated by fourth and fifth generation Szawlowskis.
The original farm was located in Northampton, MA, with the hub of the operations being the farmhouse where the four Szawlowski brothers grew up. It was during this time, in the 1950’s, that the family nickname was born, as the four Szawlowski brothers – Frank, Chet, John, and Stanley – started being called “Swaz” by their high school teammates. In 1972, the city took about 75 acres of the farm by eminent domain for an industrial park development. At the time, the Szawlowskis owned several hundred acres in the Northampton Meadows and in Hatfield, MA. The farm’s headquarters was then moved to Main Street in Hatfield.
The corporation now has 5,000 acres of potatoes under production in the Massachusetts towns of Hatfield, Northampton, Hadley, Amherst, Sunderland, and Whately. Since deciding to branch out the business in 1989, they have also been packaging potatoes for other growers outside their harvest. During this time, one of the brothers – Frank Szawlowski – left the fields to market and manage the business in the office-warehouse complex in Hatfield. The other brothers divided their farm duties based on their own talents. Chet became the master mechanic, John worked with pesticides to adopt integrated pest-management techniques, and Stanley led the seed cutting in the spring as well as supervision of the packing.
In 2016, JR’s oldest grandson, John, passed away. Today, John’s three sons, Johnny, Carl and Mike, along with his three grandsons, Sean, Chris, and Colin, manage the farming operations which Chet oversees. Frank, Sr. manages sales, packing, and shipping. His daughters Shelley, Melanie, and Diane run the day-to-day business and his son, Frank, Jr. does the farming.