This month, the Michigan Potato Industry Council is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Between farming techniques and education, there has been a lot of changes in a half century. But one thing Kelly Turner, MPIC executive director, thinks has been one of the biggest changes? Science behind growing a potato.
“That’s why we put so much time, energy and money behind the potato team at Michigan State University and the work they do studying pathogens, potato nutrition, different breeding stock,” said Turner. “I think a lot of people don’t realize all the science that goes into growing the perfect potato.”
In addition to working to develop the perfect potato, Turner said Michigan is trying to emulate Idaho. MPIC wants to provide Michigan consumers with a variety of quality vegetables that are grown locally.
“We don’t have to truck them as far,” she said. “We know the growers, we know their commitment to producing high-quality, affordable, environmentally friendly products. We think Michigan potatoes are better than Idaho’s. We grow all these fantastic things in Michigan too, so we would really love for them to be supporting our farmers and be educated consumers when they go to the store.”
However, proper storage is a slight issue. Nate Chesher, MPIC’s marketing manager, says over the next 50 years, MPIC wants to develop storage so they aren’t importing from other states.
“We want to be able to provide potatoes year-round,” said Chesher. “We’re creeping up on 10 to 11 months right now, and I think we can hit that year-long storage goal. That’d be a game changer for the chip industry, and being able to have potatoes year-round in Michigan, too.”
Education is still one of MPIC’s top priorities moving into the next half century. They want to teach consumers about the varieties in the marketplace, the nutritional value, as well as environmental practices of MPIC’s growers.
“The growers here in Michigan, they’ve been farming for generations, and they want to continue to be farming for generations,” said Turner. “It’s not just the family business—it’s a lifestyle, something they’re very proud of. It’s a noble profession, and the environment is really important to them because you can’t just go out and make new farmland. Those are the things we’re not only educating consumers on, but we’re also continuing to educate our growers.”
Both Turner and Chesher say they’re proud of how far the commission has come and are excited to see what the next five decades bring. More info can be found at mipotato.com.