Spudman 7: Matt Wilkes, Potato Services of Michigan
Potato Services of Michigan is in the business of getting potato products to where there is a need, and there are needs everywhere. PSOM buys and sells potatoes of all kinds — chipping, processing, tablestock, seed, exotics, organic — and the company also started exporting North American potatoes recently.
As a third-generation member of the Wilkes family to head PSOM, Matt Wilkes is well-schooled on the family business. (Paul Wilkes and John Crawford founded the company in 1976). After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2005, Matt worked in the office furniture field for nearly a decade. He found his way back home to PSOM in 2015. Wilkes is a current board member of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission and Michigan Seed Potato Association.
Could you share a little about your role with PSOM?
Potato Services is a small family-owned business, so I am tasked with many different responsibilities throughout the year. While I handle all of our back-of-the-office functions, such as accounting and IT, I also am heavily involved in our sales efforts and represent the company on a few different industry boards.
If you could offer your 2015 self some advice, what would it be?
Be patient. The potato markets change rapidly; it’s important to not overreact and to stay the course. With supply levels and pricing changing almost weekly, it is easy to get caught up in the extremes. What I have learned is that those extremes — both high and low — are typically short-lived and not as volatile as once thought.
What is the biggest issue facing the potato industry?
I would say environmental and food safety issues are going to continue to be a challenge to navigate into the future. Whether it be the recent news cycles focusing on the romaine crisis or a new crop of lawmakers trying to prohibit the use of groundwater for irrigation, I think these types of issues will be coming at the industry faster and more aggressively.
What is your top goal for 2019?
Continue to grow the business. While we don’t have any specific growth strategies, we are always looking for new opportunities such as expanding into new growing areas, marketing additional potato products, or even getting involved with other commodities.
What do you find most fulfilling about your career?
I truly believe that we add value to the supply chain. We help growers do what they do best and manage their farms efficiently and profitably and we help our customers operate their plants and sell their products without having to worry about their raw product supply. We sit in our office all day long 364 days each year making sure all the details in the middle are handled.
What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?
I like them all. Fries, potato salad, chips — I don’t discriminate.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
When I’m not spending time with my wife and dog, I am a big outdoors guy and I enjoy fishing and hunting.
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