Potato Woman for All Seasons 2018
The Packer's Tom Karst presents New York’s Melanie Wickham with the 2017 Potato Woman for All Seasons award. ( Photo by Kam Quarles )

ORLANDO, Fla. — New York’s Melanie Wickham has been awarded the 2017 Potato Woman for All Seasons by The Packer and Farm Journal.

The Packer’s Tom Karst presented the award to Wickham Jan. 12 at the National Potato Council annual awards banquet.

Wickham, executive secretary of the Empire State Potato Growers and manager of Empire State Farm Days, was nominated by state and national industry leaders.

Serving for 33 years with Empire State Potato Growers, Wickham was praised for her tireless work on behalf of the industry both in New York and nationwide.

Karst said Wickham won praise for lobbying in Washington D.C. on behalf of potato nutrition benefits, eligibility in the Women, Infant and Children program, and in school lunches.

Supporters also praised Wickham’s work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University for a golden nematode quarantine facility on the Cornell campus.

As manager of Empire Farm Days — an outdoor trade show for agriculture in the northeast U.S. — Wickham’s efforts helped grow the show from 250 exhibitors in 1986 to about 600 exhibitors in recent years.

“She has done so much, she was dedicated since day one,” said Ralph Child, owner of Childstock Farms, Malone, N.Y. “When she decides to do something it gets done.”

Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, said Wickham helped mobilize the U.S. potato industry to support golden nematode research in New York and was very effective in lobbying New York Congressional representatives on getting potatoes into the Women, Infant and Children program.

“She provided a lot of spark to all of us — she is very well deserving,” Voigt said.

Wickham expressed thanks for the award.

“Thank you for letting me be a small part of this incredible industry — it is the best industry in the world that feeds people,” she said. “And thank you to New York state, who took a chance on a very green and very young 26-year old who was a writer and photographer who thought she could change the world — thank you for helping me do just a little bit of that.”