Kelly Turner, new head of Michigan potato commission, already has a mindset for farming
Among the ranks of state association leaders in the potato industry, Kelly Turner is still something of the new kid in class. She’s hardly new to agriculture, however.
Turner, a lifelong Michigan resident, took over as the executive director of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission in August following Mike Wenkel’s move to the National Potato Council. Turner grew up on a farm and later worked for a parks system administration authority in metro Detroit before joining the Michigan Farm Bureau, where she stayed for 11 years.
Turner has spent the past few months diving into the state’s potato scene.
Could you share a little about your background?
I grew up on a beef and cash crop farm in mid-Michigan and come from a long lineage of farmers. In the late 1980s, my dad declared that he wanted me to “do anything but be a farmer.” I went to college at Michigan State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism — it’s ok to insert a giggle here.
What attracted you to agriculture?
I have always had a love for the lifestyle that agriculture provides. Integration of math, science, hard work and being able to be master of your own destiny molded the person I am today. Being in close connection to the life cycle and understanding the impact agriculture has on every person on Earth was — and still is — fascinating to me.
What has stood out to you about the industry so far?
I have been amazed at how well each sector of the potato industry works together, both at the state and national levels. I am excited and invigorated by the amount of research and marketing that goes into the potato industry and the amazing opportunities that exist.
What is the biggest concern for MPIC members?
I believe that the biggest challenges are the same as what other areas of the country are focused on. Environmental issues, especially those dealing with water, are continuing to take the lead in this area. Second is food safety compliance and staying vigilant and at the forefront of the topic is paramount, not only for growers but the entire supply chain.
What is your top goal for the next year?
As the new executive … my top goal is to become the spokesperson for the industry and to gain a respectful reputation amongst the industry partners, legislative partners and interested consumers.
What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?
Potato soup with potato chips for garnish is not only my favorite potato dish, but also the favorite for my family.
What do you enjoy doing away from work?
I am currently working on achieving my doctoral degree, so between that and two kids who are involved in 4-H and after school programs, I don’t have much time. When I finish my degree, I plan to get back into running. Anyone up for the Dopey Challenge?