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Family Business

This issue marks my one-year anniversary as editor of Spudman. In the last year, I’ve not only learned a lot about the potato industry, but I’ve learned a lot about myself.

Taking on another magazine has taught me just how far I can push myself and how much I actually can do – and what I can’t. It has shown me that perhaps the most important skills a magazine editor can have are social skills. It has also given me a greater appreciation for the role a family can play in a farming operation. When you grow up on a farm and you’re on the inside of that farm’s family circle, it’s hard to appreciate what others see when they look in. Farm families are the closest, most well-balanced families I’ve ever been around. They know how to work hard – and they know how to have fun.

For the main feature story on a seed potato grower this month, I visited Sklarczyk Seed Farm in Johannesburg, Mich. This was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. Don Sklarczyk and his son, Ben, welcomed me to their farm. They both answered my questions and took me on a tour of their greenhouses. It’s an amazing thing, watching a father and son work side by side.

In Ben, I saw the values his father had instilled in him on the farm. I saw him working hard to make a good crop for his customers. I saw him learning from his father – and wanting to learn. I saw him making his father proud.

When Don stepped back and let Ben answer questions, it showed me that these men are truly working together as a team. And while Don is still the father, he has allowed Ben to take over some responsibilities and bring his new ideas onto the farm. Don has truly planted the seeds of growth in his son. Their farm, I am sure, has only been made better by the close working relationship these two men have formed.

The Sklarczyks aren’t unique. Every family I’ve talked to in this industry is the same: working hard together, growing together. I’m trying to decide if it’s the farm that makes the family close or if it’s only a close family that can successfully farm. It could go either way, I suppose, but I tend to believe that only a family that is close to begin with can make life work on a farm.

I came into this job with a fruit background and a deep passion for agriculture. I wasn’t too familiar with potatoes. In the last year, though, I have come to love the potato industry – and potato people. I’m proud to say I’m part of this group of amazing people – though it may be in a somewhat removed way. I am looking forward to learning more about potatoes and getting to know more of you for many years to come.

Originally posted Saturday, Apr. 7, 2007

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