April 2007
It Takes An Industry

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

That’s one of my favorite quotes. Whenever I reach a particularly stressful deadline or hectic week, I think of this quote and remember that the most important thing is recognizing the strength that is within me.

Without intending it, the theme of this month’s issue ended up being leadership. And I think the Emerson quote is completely and perfectly applicable.

Jim Wysocki, the 2006 president of the National Potato Council, embodies the strong spirit and inner drive that makes this country and industry so great. Jim recognizes what has happened in the past and what could happen in the future if the industry continues on the road it’s on. But he’s not dwelling on it. He’s stepping up and he’s part of the group leading the charge or change.

Jim is embracing the change he is faced with and is making the most of it with new products and new ways of approaching the business. He knows he’s not in this alone and that the whole industry needs to band together to make sure it survives. Jim talks in detail about forming partnerships and creating new relationships. He knows consumers aren’t going to save the industry for him. He has to work with others in the industry to bring new products and opportunities to the marketplace.

Farmers are, by nature, entrepreneurs. They have strong, dedicated hearts and put their souls into what they do. But, as Albert Wada said about United Potato Growers of America, potato growers are “fragmented and independent.”

It’s time for growers to step up and take what lies within them and not only apply it to their farms and businesses but to the whole industry. I know that great things can happen when farmers come together. I am confident it will happen with the potato industry.

The United cooperatives are a start. They are, by definition, groups of growers coming together and leading the industry to increased profitability.

New products are a start. Planting reductions are a start. But it’s going to take the whole industry working together for change to make it happen.

What lies behind you is a scary situation, and if it doesn’t change, what lies before you is even scarier. It’s going to take an industry pooling together pooling their strengths to brighten that future.

Read about what some of the industry’s leaders are doing in “Leading the Change” and in “A United Front.”

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