( Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation )

LAS VEGAS – The potato industry has launched a new foundation to fuel its future leaders' program. 

The Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (LEAF), a new 501(c)3 organization, was started to provide tools, training, and support necessary to develop growers and industry members as leaders, potato industry leaders said at the 2020 Potato Expo on Jan. 15.

The National Potato Council previously had a leadership program funded by a sponsorship from an agricultural input supplier, but that sponsorship recently ended when the company began its own leadership program.
Shelley Olsen of LJ Olsen, Inc. in Othello, Wash., and Potato LEAF chair, challenged the industry to contribute to LEAF at the Jan. 15 Potato Expo general session on Jan 15.

“We need your help,” Olsen said. “As members of the Potato LEAF board, we created an ambitious fundraising goal for 2020; we want to reach $2 million in pledges by the end of this year.” 

She said potato industry members had the option of making an online donation, sign a pledge commitment or bid on auction items to raise money for the nonprofit foundation.

Potato LEAF supports the cultivation of future leaders through leadership development, educational training, and advancement opportunities, she said.

LEAF leadership

The Potato LEAF governing body includes chair Olsen, and voting directors R.J. Andrus, vice president of Idahoan Foods, Gregg Halverson of Black Gold Farms, Dan Moss of Moss Ag/Arrowhead Potato Co., and Richard Pavelski of Heartland Farms. Non-voting directors include Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, Blair Richardson, CEO of Potatoes USA, and Shawn Boyle, president and general counsel of the Idaho Growers Shippers Association.

Andrus said he was a 2006 graduate of the NPC’s leadership program. “I know firsthand how important it is for the development of young leaders,” he said in remarks before the Potato Expo general session. Andrus said the NPC board voted to contribute $100,000 to the foundation.

“It’s my hope that everybody in this room will either contribute personally or as a business to help donate to this important foundation for the development of our future leaders,” he said. 

In remarks to the Potato Expo general session Jan. 15, Phil Hickman, chairman of Potatoes USA, announced Potatoes USA will contribute up to $500,00 in matching funds for any donations made to LEAF made by state organizations or any individuals of those state organization in the period from Jan. 15 to June 30.

In separate remarks, Andrus said his involvement in the leadership program 14 years ago opened new worlds for him as to what drives public policy and off-farm issues.

“Honestly, it launched me into wanting to get involved in (industry leadership),” he said. “I have had six years on the Idaho Potato Commission, and have been on the board of directors of the NPC since 2007,” he said.

Andrus also praised the work of NPC staff, particularly Michael Wenkel, NPC chief operating officer, in working out the details in developing the foundation. 

Wenkel said the NPC voted in June to move to create the foundation.

The NPC’s previous leadership program had been about 20 years old and typically has included about 20 to 25 participants each year, he said.

The 2020 class, now organized under the LEAF organization, has already been selected and will be meeting for the first time in late February. 

More information about the program is available at pleaf.org.


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