FFA Leaders Tour Potato Operations 

August 20, 2014     

Leaders of the state’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) Association made two stops to learn more about potatoes as they toured farms and processing operations in southern Michigan last week.

“We showcased a wide variety of career opportunities that exist in the potato industry,” said Mike Wenkel, executive director of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission. “These tours are valuable for the broad exposure to modern agriculture they give to our farming leaders of the future. It’s good that they’re learning about the Michigan potato industry and its role in the state’s agriculture.”

The event was the annual FFA Business and Industry Tour under the auspices of the Michigan FFA Foundation. The tour is organized by Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Potato Industry Commission.

The participants were the current FFA officers including the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, six regional vice presidents and the organization’s reporter and sentinel. “These are outstanding young people,” Wenkel said. “They’re enthusiastic and curious and want to know more about how agriculture really works in Michigan’s different sectors. These field trips give them direct experience learning from professional farmers, who not only explain the opportunities and challenges of their industries but offer the young people career advice. This kind of contact can spark their interest in pursuing particular types of careers in agriculture.”

An added benefit to the tour, he said, is that these young people are leaders in their high schools. They share what they learned about farming with others in their local FFA chapters and even with non-farm classmates who have little knowledge about how their food gets to their tables.

The potato visits by the FFA leaders included Walther Farms near Three Rivers, where they saw how large-scale potato production has to be tied to successful marketing that is dependent on sophisticated storages for extended-season availability from a fall harvest. The complementary stop for the young people was at Techmark, Inc., in Lansing, a company that specializes in engineering storage environments to preserve potatoes in top condition for nearly year-around marketing.

Other operations on the itinerary were vegetable farms, a blueberry farm, an orchard, a vineyard and a vegetable and fruit processor.

Wenkel noted that the young visitors were impressed with what they saw, citing the comment by FFA State President Alexandria Schut of the Caledonia FFA chapter that “our state officer team learned that hard work, passion and common sense are the tools for success.”

The other members of the 2014 officer team are Vice President Ethan Haywood of the Hastings FFA; Secretary Ken VandenBout III, also of the Caledonia FFA; Treasurer Dalton Hard of the Branch Area Career Center FFA; Reporter Emma Blough of the Lowell FFA; Sentinel Kim Forbush of the Corunna FFA; Region 1 Vice President Cameron Hayden of the Cassopolis FFA; Region 2 Vice President Gaige Tucker of the Milan FFA; Region 3 Vice President Lance Fowler of the St. Louis FFA; Region 4 Vice President Emily House of the Webberville FFA; Region 5 Vice President Sam Ellison of the Tuscola FFA; and Region 6 Vice President Brandon Borke of the Alpena FFA.

The Weekly Potato Report