Spudman 7: Nina Zidack
Nina Zidack was raised on a dryland farm/ranch in the Missouri Breaks of Central Montana. In college, Zidack pursued a degree in horticulture science at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman and a Ph.D. in plant pathology at Auburn University in Alabama. Fresh out of graduate school, Zidack and her husband Walt owned and operated a 30-acre market vegetable farm in Billings, Montana. During that time, Zidack started working at MSU on various research projects in the area of biological control. Nina was the disease diagnostician in the Schutter Diagnostic lab from 2005-2008. After that she took the position as director of Montana Seed Potato Certification at MSU. Zidack lives in Bozeman with her husband Walt and daughters, Madeline and Julia.
What are the best words of advice you’ve received?
From my father, I learned that when you face a new challenge, look at it as an opportunity. When you get to the point when you think you are too busy and being pulled in too many directions, take a look at what you are doing and be thankful for all of the opportunities that you have been able to take advantage of.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Over the past year, I have been mining” historical disease testing data from both summer and postharvest testing. I would like to gain a better understanding of the ebb and flow of disease cycles in certified seed potatoes as they progress from generation to generation so that I can make meaningful recommendations to growers that result in reduced losses of early generation seed potatoes to virus.
What do you do to relax?
For outdoor activities I enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, and gardening. I love to cook and my favorite part of the day is sitting around the table with my family hearing about everyone’s day.
What would you like to be your lasting legacy?
For both my family and my Montana seed potato family, I would like my legacy to be open lines of communication and cooperation.
What job or work would you have pursued if you had not become involved in the potato industry?
Some aspect of production agriculture. My husband and I had a commercial vegetable farm for 10 years and we would have kept doing that if the university hadn’t lured us back.
What are three things on your bucket list/must do list?
1) Visit Norway. My mother’s parents emigrated from there. I want to experience that beautiful country and meet my Norwegian relatives.
2) Backpack the Na Pali coast on Kauai, Hawaii.
3) Drive the Alcan Highway and spend some time in Alaska
What is the one truth you have learned about the potato industry?
From top to bottom, the industry is filled with good, honest people. Individuals involved in growing, processing and marketing a product that they take pride in build a unique commitment and passion that is shared with others.