From The Field

Year of the Lady

Published in the August 2009 Issue Published online: Aug 06, 2009 Tyler J. Baum, Editor
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Marilyn Munroe in a potato sack dressHow often have you seen the photo of legendary Marilyn Monroe dressed in a potato sack dress? I never gave it much thought before-and for that I'm deeply sorry!-until at the 2009 U of I Snake River Weed Control Tour in Aberdeen, Idaho, in June.

As Dr. Pamela Hutchinson's slide show concluded, we were treated to her signature concluding slide-photos of America's Sweetheart in various poses, dressed in what appeared to be a very itchy dress. (It was, of course, lined on the inside.) There were black-and-white photos, color photos and photos we had and hadn't seen before. Dr. Hutchinson told us a little bit about that iconic photo shoot, which lead me to the Idaho Potato Commission. They provided information even Marilyn Monroe's official fan website didn't know.

Before Marilyn (formerly Norma Jeane Mortenson) rocketed to super stardom and legend status, in 1952 she was under contract with 20th Century Fox. The studio publicity agent wanted to prove she didn't need to be dressed in the finest gowns or jewels to look good, so a burlap dress was made, and the then-26-year-old posed for a photo session. And that's where the phrase "you'd look good even in a potato sack" comes from!

These photos have become so iconic that they've been duplicated many times in our industry. In 2005, the IPC decided to recreate that photo, this time with Denise Austin, America's Fitness Sweetheart. Peggy Grover of Bench Mark Potato in Thornton, Idaho, made similar sacks about 15 years ago, also lined with comfort-able fabric, and traveled the country with Bench Mark leaders to promote their company.

In this issue, we've got a spotlight on Peggy in our Idaho Grower Shippers Association insert, a primer for the 81st annual Sun Valley convention. Peggy is the first woman to serve on the IGSA board of directors. Another first is Jalna Searle, the first woman to receive the honor of being named the Russet Aristocrat. An article on her is also included in the IGSA insert.

Rhonda Beesley, in charge of this year's Luncheon-which takes the place of the Ladies' Luncheon-has men in mind, however. The Luncheon has been opened this year to both men and women, so everyone is invited to hear former World War II pilot and POW, Loye Copeland, speak on his experiences during the war.

In all, though, this year's IGSA convention appears to be the year of the lady.

Thank goodness. Because men DON'T look good in potato sacks.

P.S. We hope you enjoy the new design and layout of our nearly four-decade old magazine. Please take note of our first Trivia Question in Around the Vines. Each issue, we'll provide an informative, humorous or simply fascinating potato-related trivia question. If you know the correct answer, log onto with your answer. If you're the first to answer correctly, you'll win a prize!