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  Homepage / Editor's Blogs / 2008 Idaho Potato Conference Blog  
2008 Idaho Potato Conference Blog

Scott Christie shares his thoughts from the Idaho Potato Congress, held Jan. 22-24 in Pocatello, Idaho.

January 23 - Poking Around Pocatello
January 23 - Two Sessions In
January 23 - Lost: Three Boxes of Magazines
January 24 - Wrapping Up

Poking Around Pocatello
Wed., Jan. 23, 6 a.m.

The 2008 Idaho Potato Conference will kick off soon, but a few exhibitors are still looking for parts of their booths. The U.S. Potato Board booth ended up in Salt Lake City, but the board's materials arrived, including the special report that was included in the January issue of Spudman.

The Spudman booth (109) is all set, so stop by and try your hand at Duck Hunt. The high scorers will win a gift card to Cabela's. I have yet to track down a few boxes of magazines, but they have arrived and have bounced around to a few different departments.

The only other delays were with travel getting here. Grand Rapids, Mich., got dumped on with snow, causing Spudman advertising manager Marnie Draper to miss her flight. I barely made it on, but once we pulled away from the gate the county closed the runway for plowing. After an hour, we were on our way. Marnie should get in this morning, and I know she's excited to meet many of the magazine's advertisers.

It's a balmy -6 degrees with a windchill of -16 degrees outside, and it's not supposed to make it to double digits (unless you count below zero) today. It's a good day to stay inside and listen to Extension personnel and researchers talk about potatoes, so that's what I'm going to do.

I'll post throughout the day as I attend educational sessions and walk around the show. Check back for the most up-to-date information coming out of the potato conference.

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Two Sessions In
Wed., Jan. 23, 10:45 a.m.

The educational sessions and trade show opened promptly at 8 a.m. The turnout seems to be good and a number of readers have stopped by the booth to try Duck Hunt.

I've had the chance to sit in on two talks - one on renting land by Paul Peterson and Ben Eborn, both with Idaho's Extension Service, and the other talk was by Bill Bohl on potato planting management. Few questions were answered in the land rental talk, but a lot of questions were raised. Peterson and Eborn talked about the many variables that determine what the value of land is, and ultimately what it should rent for. Some contracts that are more common in the East and Midwest, such as the yield-based lease or flexible cash lease, may start popping up in Idaho as landowners try to get in on the profits that growers are seeing from higher commodity prices.

The keynote speaker, Jay Lehr, is about to begin his talk on the future of sustainable agriculture. After that, there's an hour break for lunch and then three more hours of talks. I'm planning on attending the sessions on PVY in Idaho, fertility and alternative nutrient sources for potatoes.

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Lost: Three Boxes of Magazines
Wed., Jan. 23, 5:30 p.m.

After a day and a half of searching every corner of Pond Student Union Building, I've finally located three boxes of Spudman.

The magazines were placed in an administration room, and nobody on staff could remember why they were there. So all day, we've been unable to give out magazines at our booth. But we had about 50 people renew or newly subscribe to the magazine, and the scores on Duck Hunt hit a high of 761,000 points (someone plays too much). If you didn't get a copy of the magazine today, look for them tomorrow - we'll make sure they're visible.

I attended an educational session on fertility and another on alternative nutrient sources, and plan on attending the social hour after finishing this blog post. It's a good thing I can do two things at once, because my Kansas Jayhawks are continuing their undefeated basketball season by beating up on Iowa State. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

The conference wraps up tomorrow at noon, then it's teardown and heading out of town. Check back tomorrow for more news from the show.

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Wrapping Up
Thurs., Jan. 24, 10:30 a.m.

I'm done with the educational stuff, now it's on to the fun stuff - big pieces of farm equipment.

I just finished a session on farm sustainability - as it relates to transitioning the farm from one generation to another. I never realized there were so many points of contention in a family business, everything from fairness in hours and pay to who makes decisions and when. I guess that's why so many family businesses fail, but it's a good reason to start putting a plan in place. It's not just about who gets what when you're gone, it's about gracefully leaving the company in good hands and having enough money set aside to retire.

One comment that struck me was that farmers retire with future farm profits, not past profits. Most businesses, as they're successful, funnel money into retirement plans or a 401K. But farmers figure the money could be made back by reinvesting it in the farm, and therefore their retirement money is wrapped up in the non-liquid assets of the farm.

I'll be heading over to the ag equipment expo in Holt Arena after I finish the post and my coffee. The coffee actually is an important part of the blog, because Idaho State University doesn't have a guest login for the wireless Internet, so I have to leave campus and sit in a coffee shop.

There's about an hour left of the trade show, so we'll be packing it up and shipping it to the next show - Washington State Potato Conference and Trade Show. I'll be attending that show, too, and I'm looking forward to my first trip to Washington and a chance to meet some Washington potato growers.

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