Potato Day at the Capitol Is Nov. 12—Helpers Wanted

October 22, 2014
Potato Day at the Capitol is coming on Nov. 12th and the bigger the number of potato industry participants the better.

On Potato Day’s agenda in Lansing are potato displays, tokens of the economic importance of Michigan potato production, legislative recognition of the industry’s positive impact on the state and visits with legislators and aides in their offices around the Capitol complex.

The format is roughly similar to the annual Ag Days at the Capitol highlighting the state’s entire agricultural sector, but in this case there is a key difference, Mike Wenkel, executive director of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission (MPIC), explained.

Just Potatoes
“This is only about potatoes,” he said. “The entire focus is on potatoes alone. We’ll have a great chance to showcase our industry. I’m hoping a lot of growers and other members of our industry will be able to get to Lansing that day to interact with the lawmakers and tell them our story.”

The messages to get across, Wenkel pointed out, are few and simple. The potato industry:
• is a strong contributor to the state’s economic health
• produces a highly nutritious basic food
• relies on and protects the essential natural resources of land and water
• is strengthened by the legislative funding of research under Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs);
• benefits from the state’s Strategic Growth Initiative, a competitive program in which the Commission has successfully won a grant.

The Schedule
The displays on the Capitol’s first floor will be set up by mid-morning and demonstrate the broad range of the Michigan potato industry. Included will be end products—potato chips and canned potatoes as well as tuber samples of fresh and chipping varieties. Effects of various sugar levels in chipping potatoes and technology for monitoring sugar levels will also be shown. Another exhibit will feature mini-tuber production. The U.S. Potato Board will offer materials explaining its promotional function in the national industry. Michigan State University will add a table highlighting research receiving industry funding and GREEEN funding.

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture meets that morning in Constitution Hall near the Capitol and will kick off its agenda by receiving potato gift bags promoting MI Potato. Other delivery stops for the bags will be the Senate floor and the House floor. The Senate and House will recognize the potato industry and that afternoon the participating growers and other industry members will begin visiting legislative offices to meet with their elected representatives and staffs to discuss the Michigan potato messages.

The Food
Beginning around 11:00 am, lunch will be served and feature a unique set of potato flavors. A caterer will provide a baked-potato bar and a table of potato hors d’oeuvres. The food-sampling centerpiece for passersby will be the winning entry of the 2014 competition of The Great Michigan Potato Recipe Contest sponsored by the MPIC and the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA). The dish is called Gluten-Free Potato Lasagna and ingeniously substitutes potatoes for the traditional pasta. It will be prepared by an MRA member chef, and MRA officials are expected to be available during the lunch period to discuss the role Michigan potatoes can play in fine dining. The winning recipe was created by Stacy Dixon, a student in the St. Joseph High School culinary program in Berrien County.

Wenkel expects Potato Day to be highly productive, but a lot is planned that will need plenty of people to pitch in and help. “We welcome all Michigan potato growers and industry members to attend for the day,” he said. “It’s a good chance to meet with influential people and tell them what we do and how we help the state of Michigan.”

Convinced to come? Please contact Wenkel by phone or e-mail so he can get a count of the number attending. 

The Weekly Potato Report