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Planting Seeds

As part of my work here at Spudman magazine, I have the opportunity to travel to various trade shows and conferences across the country. It’s during these trips that I get a chance to plant seeds for the potato industry.

Because the airline industry crams people into an aluminum can, it makes the flight more bearable if you’re friendly toward the seatmate you’re inevitably going to be touching for the next few hours, depending on the flight. Talk is usually superficial, chatting about destinations and weather, but when the conversation turns to jobs, my seatmate usually perks up.

After initially exclaiming that they love the name of the magazine, I’ll often hear about how much they love potatoes. On a flight from Minneapolis to Grand Rapids, Mich., I listened to a flight attendant tell me all about her favorite recipes, from hash browns and home fries to baked potato casserole.

I’ve found that different groups of people like different sorts of potato products. Women typically like casseroles and baked potatoes, and younger men usually like potato chips and french fries. Middle-aged men and older skip over the food and want to talk about the big pieces of equipment farmers use – but that could be because my flights originate and end in the manufacturing state of Michigan.

Often during the flight conversation, the topic of healthful products will come up. I’ve been told a few times that someone has given up potatoes for more healthful foods, and that’s where I immediately begin planting seeds.

I not only tell them about the healthful attributes of potatoes, I also tell people about the industry and the farmers raising the crops. I’ve found that many people grew up on a farm, or had family on a farm or visited a farm at some point, and they usually have positive memories of it. This emotional connection helps plant the seed of the healthful potato.

I don’t know if the people I talk to on the airplane buy more potatoes because of the conversation we had, but I know they’ve learned about the food they’re consuming. It’s just as important that we plant seeds of truth in consumers’ minds, before we go out and start planting real seed. And both require tending, which is where marketing and advertising comes in – both on your product packaging and through the efforts of your industry associations.

As you prepare your ground for planting and ready your seed, take a moment to tell someone about your product. On an airplane or at your local diner, seeds of knowledge and truth that you plant have a way of growing.

Originally posted Monday, Feb. 25, 2008

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