May/June 2011
Spudman 7: John Keeling

John Keeling has served as the executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council since 2002. He lives in Arlington, Va., and co-owns a 150-acre cattle operation in Buckingham County, Va., with his brother. He also helps manage a fourth-generation family farm and ranch properties in Texas. Keeling received his undergraduate degree in economics from Washington and Lee University and his master’s degree in agricultural economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

What are the best words of advice you have received?
You can move the earth if you have to. Look for the lever and fulcrum you have within reach. A man who was a second father to me when I was a young man made me believe that anything was possible if you made a clear assessment of your situation, identified the tools you had to make it happen and began to take action in a determined way.

What are your goals for the next year?
Work with others in the potato industry to deliver a major step forward in policymakers’ attitudes and perceptions of the value of potatoes in providing nutritious, affordable and pleasurable food to school children and other federal feeding program participants.

What do you do to relax or to get away from work?
I relax by spending time with my 11-year-old son Rob. We enjoy throwing the football or baseball and traveling. We have a 150-acre hobby farm in central Virginia that is our quiet getaway complete with tractor, bulldozer and lots of trees that keep chainsaws busy.

What would you like to be your lasting legacy?
On the personal side I would like to have been an inspiring, loving father to my son and supportive friend to family and friends I am close to. On the professional side I hope to have made a difference for the industry by being committed and tenacious in trying to obtain wins for potato growers and our industry partners.

What are the top three things on your bucket list/must do list?

  1. Live and work long enough to see my son graduate from college.
  2. Build another house in a hands-on way.
  3. Spend time at the beach every year.

What would you be doing if you weren’t with the NPC?
If I were not doing policy work I would likely be associated with agriculture or the building trades in some way. After all this paperwork the alternative would definitely be hands on.

What is the one truth you’ve learned about the potato industry?
Great people with a wonderful commitment to their families, friends and industry. If you were in trouble you would want your potato friends to help you out and to watch your backside.

Would you like to be featured in Spudman 7? Click here to email Bill Schaefer, managing editor, and share your story.

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