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July/August 2014
Spudman 7: Mike Wenkel

Mike Wenkel joined the staff of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission (MPIC) in August 2012 as the executive director. His responsibilities include oversight of research, promotional and educational activities to advance the production of quality potatoes across Michigan. Additionally, he manages legislative activities to ensure they have positive impacts on potato production for the Potato Growers of Michigan, Inc. (PGMI), a non-profit organization consisting of potato producers across the state.

Prior to joining MPIC and PGMI, Wenkel was employed at Michigan Farm Bureau, where he served as the manager of the Membership and Field Services Department.

Wenkel is a native of Standish, Mich., and currently resides in Grand Ledge. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture, completed his MBA in 2003 at the University of Phoenix and received his Certified Association Executive designation in 2008. Growing up, he was actively involved in 4-H and FFA, is a past president of the Michigan FFA Alumni Association and is currently on the board of directors for the Michigan Society of Association Executives and the Michigan FFA.

What are the best words of advice you’ve received?

The first thing that comes to mind as we are snow-covered in Michigan is, Don’t eat yellow snow!” In all actuality, I would say the idea that hard work and perseverance will pay off is some advice that I have come to live by.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Personally, I am hoping to better figure out some of the balance between work and a personal life and get into a better routine of exercise. Professionally, I hope to get a better understanding of all of the key aspects of raising, growing and storing these things called potatoes.

What do you do to relax?

As a Michigan State University graduate, I enjoy following both MSU football and basketball. Camping, skiing and other activities that allow me to enjoy the outdoors help keep me busy. I have also been known to engage in the crafting and tasting of home-brewed beer and wines.

What would you like to be your lasting legacy?

If I finish short of a billionaire, I hope my time in the agricultural industry reflects that I was someone that gave of himself to better of the industry. As a billionaire, I will buy my legacy in some fashion.

What are three things on your bucket list/must to do list?

I have several places that I still wish to see in the world including my place of heritage, Germany; also traveling to Australia/New Zeeland and finishing out visiting all 50 states.

What job or work would you have pursued if you had not become involved in the potato

With only 18 months in the potato industry, it is difficult to say specifically. Some segment of agriculture or association management certainly would have been a part of any career change that I would have made.

What is the one truth you have learned about the potato industry?

The thing that I have experienced and am most impressed about the Michigan potato industry is the leadership and joint competitive spirit that prevails in working to address key issues to the industry.





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