Published online: Mar 18, 2011 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting, Herbicide, Irrigation, Fertilizer, Insecticide, Fungicide, Seed Potatoes, Potato Equipment
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WASHINGTON, D.C.-Twenty-one potato growers and industry representatives from across the U.S. formed the Potato Industry Leadership Institute (PILI) Class of 2011. They participated in training designed to identify, develop and cultivate new leaders within the potato industry. From Feb. 24 to March 4, participants sharpened their skills in the areas of leadership development, public policy, marketing, trade, team building, public communication, presentation skills and more.
Participants in the 2011 Institute included: Laura Bahn (ID), Hollis Baley (OR), Keith Groven (ND), Lance Hapka (MN), Mike Hawley (WA), Ryan Haynie (CO), Jon Iverson (OR), Chris Johns (FL), Donald Kitchen (MI), Terrance Lindauer (ID), Gary Mahany (NY), Jeffery McCullough (CO), Jack Meyer (MT), Tyler Mitchell (CO), Grant Morris (WA), Jim Mortenson (WI), Trent Munden (WA), Britt Raybould (ID), Joe Seis (WI), Marc Staunton (CA) and Jason Wollard (ME).
Rex Calloway of Quincy, Wash., served as the grower leader on the program. He participated in the 2010 Institute and was elected by his class to lead this year's program. The 2011 Institute elected Grant Morris of Pasco, Wash., to serve as the grower leader for the 2012 Institute.
The first half of the 2011 Institute was hosted in Bakersfield, Calif., by local growers Brian Kirschenmann, Jason Davenport and Ron Lehr, Jr. The program kicked off with a legislative and trade update by John Keeling, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Potato Council (NPC), followed by a "Market & Consumer Overview and Marketing and Globalization Review"  presented by Tim O'Connor, President and CEO of the United States Potato Board (USPB).
The 2011 PILI Class had the opportunity to visit the winter planting operations at Lehr Brothers Farms of Edison, Calif., followed by a tour of the farm's fresh packing subsidiary, Big L Packers. They also toured the chip-stock wash facilities at Kirschenmann Farms, Inc., Lamont, Calif., followed by farm and field visits. They learned of the unique challenges and opportunities of the California potato industry. Participants also toured Frito-Lay's Kern Production Plant, and the carrot processing facilities at Bolthouse Farms.
The second half of the training was in Washington, D.C., where the focus moved to legislative and regulatory priorities for the U.S. potato industry, as well as skills training. Training sessions included presentation skills, teambuilding, media training and lobbying skills. The program culminated with visits to Capitol Hill where participants put their lobbying training to work.
The class performed outstandingly during an Iron Chef Cooking Contest when each team was given a pantry list and were challenged to prepare a nutritious and satisfying meal including potatoes and beef for a targeted household demographic. The NPC executive committee, who judged the competition, was impressed by the quality of the dishes and their incorporation of the USPB domestic marketing data into their recipes and culinary offerings.
The skills of the 2011 PILI Class were again put to the test as they performed outstandingly during a Social Media Campaign Challenge when each team was challenged to take a product, company or event and leverage social media in a way producing an intended, positive result. The campaigns presented were creative and utilized social media as a vehicle to carry their message to an intended audience. The concepts were presented before the USPB Industry Communications & Policy Committee. The judges were again impressed by the campaigns creativity and understanding of the use of social media as a vehicle to reach consumers.
Participants are selected through state organization nominations and a committee facilitated by NPC and USPB, joint coordinators of the program.
The Institute is made possible each year through a major sponsorship from Syngenta. Cultivating future industry leaders is where the Institute excels. The 2011 class was engaged and intuitively grasped the professional leadership skills presented to them. They responded to opportunities with zeal and performed meritoriously when challenged.