Potato Industry Leadership Institute

Potato industry Leadership Institute

PILI_logo.jpgCultivating Future Leaders

The Potato Industry Leadership Institute (PILI) provides tools to help younger growers and industry members develop as leaders and motivate them to commit their time and energy to the betterment of the U. S. potato industry. The Leadership Institute is an eight-day program that provides an overview of the U.S. potato industry, the challenges and issues beyond the production sector, and the roles of the industry's state and national organizations in maintaining a positive business climate for potato growers.

This Leadership Institute takes participants to a growing region to conduct in-depth discussions with upper management on key industry issues, and then concludes in Washington, D.C., for an overview of public policy issues and lobbying training.

Institute graduates are one of the U.S. potato industry's greatest assets. Participants develop a broad understanding of the industry and a common bond that is envisioned to be a wellspring of leadership for the industry. Many important and complex decisions lie ahead for the industry. By creating this leadership base today, the industry is investing wisely in its future.


This year’s 2018 Potato Industry Leadership Institute’s (PILI) class convened in Denver on Wednesday, February 21. The class, sponsored by Syngenta and Farm Credit, brought 18 men and two women from 11 potato-growing states for two and a half days of intensive training in Colorado before flying to Washington, D.C. to endure four more 18-hour days of workshops focusing on leadership, presentation skills, media training, and advocacy for potatoes at the nation’s capital. 

The sessions began on Thursday with presentations by John Toaspern, Chief Marketing Officer for Potatoes USA and John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council (NPC). The class then traveled to Colorado City for a tour of the CSS Farms nuclear seed facility before proceeding to Alamosa, into the heart of the San Luis Valley, Colorado’s major potato production area. On Friday the class spent the day touring the JW Mumma Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility, Aspen Produce, Colorado State University San Luis Valley Research Center, the Idaho Pacific Corporation, Proximity Malt and the Alamosa Solar Generating Project. Saturday morning they toured the Rio Grande Water Conservation District prior to  their flight to Washington, D.C. 

From Sunday thru Tuesday morning they attended a series of workshops focused on interpersonal and presentation skills, media training and advocacy tools for lobbying on Capitol Hill. Participants also demonstrated their culinary skills at a cook-off held to show the healthiness, convenience and diversity of cooking with potatoes, creating unique appetizers targeted towards busy food enthusiasts. To culminate the week, with all their training behind them, the PILI class joined their state organizations at the Potato D.C. Fly-In, for a day spent walking the halls of the Senate and House office buildins meeting with Congressman, Senators and aides, putting to practice what they had learned in the past week. 

The Potato Industry Leadership Institute is a joint venture of the National Potato Council and Potatoes USA and is sponsored by Syngenta and Farm Credit.

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At the conclusion of each year's class, participants elect one of their classmates to serve as the Grower-Leader for the next year's class. This Grower-Leader then attends the following year's session, serving as a mentor to the new class, while also assisting Potatoes USA and NPC staff throughout the Institute.

Below are those elected Grower-Leaders of the PILI.

2019             Eric Jemmett Idaho
                       Jason Stoddard, Idaho 
2018             Dave Warsh, Colorado 
2017             Travis Meacham, Washington
2016             Bridget Lake Cheff, Montana
2015             Reid Mattive, Colorado             
2014             Eric Schroeder, Wisconsin
2013             Derek Peterson, Idaho             
2012             Grant Morris, Washington
2011              Rex Calloway, Washington
2010             Nick Johnson, Washington
2009            Eric Halverson, North Dakota
2008            Ernie Ford, Colorado             
2007             Matt Porter, Maine             
2006             Ralph Child, New York             
2005              John Meyer, New York            
2004             George Cariveau, Minnesota