July/August 2020
Simplot’s Rasmussen pushing to further define potato industry sustainability

Jolyn Rasmussen leads J.R. Simplot’s Raw Development and Sustainability team, which has a mission of “Bringing Earth’s Resources to Life.” The group includes agronomists, variety development and sustainability efforts in North America and assists efforts worldwide. She has a passion for research and sustainability, which she says isn’t just a buzzword anymore.

Could you share a little about your background?

I was raised on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin where I learned a strong work ethic and gained my passion for agriculture, farming and the Green Bay Packers. I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in agronomy and dairy science. In college, I worked on vegetable processing for a processor in the Central Sands and in research labs on campus. 

After graduation, I worked at Del Monte Foods in Plover and then the Hancock Agricultural Research Station. The research station brought together my interest in research and vegetables, and was where I fell in love with potato research! While there, I earned my master’s in horticulture with a project on pressure bruise in potato storage. 

In 2011, I applied for a position at the Simplot as a research agronomist on biotech potatoes and was offered the position. I have to admit, I had to look at a map to see where Idaho was, and I didn’t know anything about Simplot.

Are you working on any big projects at the moment?

I am leading (Simplot’s soil health) effort internally by leveraging our diverse experts, gaining alignment and defining soil health. I am also an advisor for the SCRI grant in soil health and on the founding team for the Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems at Washington State University.  

You’re on the board of the new Potato Sustainability Alliance (PSA). Why was joining that organization important to you?

Sustainability is a key priority for Simplot, but also for me personally. Sustainability has moved from being a buzzword to something much more defined, intentional and desired by the consumer and stakeholder groups. Everyone working in agriculture wants to be sustainable, meaning they want to continue to feed the world and growing population with minimal impacts on the environment. Agriculture and the potato industry have a great story to tell and are part of the climate solution. I want to help the potato industry align and tell the story, rather than someone else tell it for them.

Any particular goals for the next 12 months?

I would like PSA to continue to broaden its membership and become the single source for assessing sustainability in the potato industry, with the membership to include all sectors and NGOs. I also want to see the Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems filled and the research program started at WSU.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Being part of the team that successfully brought Simplot’s Innate products to market.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Hanging out with my husband and two daughters, ages 10 and 15. As a family, we like to go camping in the beautiful Idaho mountains. My daughters and I ride horses — they are much better than me — and we spend a lot of time at horse shows and Pony Club activities.

What is your favorite way to eat potatoes? 

French fries!

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