January 2016
Spudman 7: Willem Schrage

Willem Schrage is the director of the potato program for the North Dakota State Seed Department. He is a native of the Netherlands and a graduate of Agricultural College in Groningen, Netherlands, specializing in crop husbandry. He speaks English, French, German, Dutch and some Spanish.

He also attended Agricultural University in Wageningen, Netherlands receiving the equivalent of an M.S. in nematology. He has worked for the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, Izmir, Turkey and Tunisia.

He is the secretary of The Potato Association of America, certification section.

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

When you ask people to do something follow up soon after they start to find out whether you were understood. When as a teenager I was sent to the field with another piece of equipment the farmer (my uncle) would always be there half an hour later, because only then would I have questions on how. That’s the best advice I received, which does not mean that I always followed it myself.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Reduce the workload or retirement. Visit friends. Stay in touch.

What do you do to relax?

Grandchildren. Volunteering with boy scouts. Prepare for and take high school students to an annual Rotary Model United Nations Assembly, where the students perform as delegates of a certain country. Horse riding.

What would you like to be your lasting legacy?

That a few youngsters would remember some of the things I tried to teach them.

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

If there would have been an opening for nematology at the time when I decided that going home to the Netherlands was in the cards, I might have taken that. However I started overseas in research on seed potato production and stayed with it, without much of a desire to want to leave the crop.

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

  1. Keep up with friends and family.
  2. That means travel is included in the plans, because all of my brothers and many of my friends are overseas.

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

It seems that when very few people who start working in potatoes want to leave the crop. The reason that I stayed in potatoes is much more the people I met and interact with than the crop itself.

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