A P R I L 2 0 1 7 POTATO GROWER 23 More than one-third of Aroostook County’s potatoes end up at this processor. Another learning experience was touring Maine’s Early Generation Nuclear Seed Facility. The facility uses tissue culture and the latest hydroponic growing techniques to produce disease-free and virus-free mini tubers. The Maine trip concluded with a visit to the U.S.-Canada border to hear from U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the movement of plants and animals between coun- tries. One goal of these gatekeepers is to prevent pests and diseases from entering the U.S. During the Washington, D.C, seg- ment, attendees demonstrated their culinary skills at a cook-off held to show the healthiness, convenience and diversity of cooking with pota- toes. Participants created unique appetizers targeted at busy food enthusiasts. The rest of the week featured public policy experts who explained the legislative and regulatory priorities of the U.S. potato industry. Attendees then practiced how to effectively deliver key messages to Congress. To culminate the week, the class put their sharpened com- munication skills into use during lobbying visits to Capitol Hill. Participants partnered with their state grower delegations to deliver the industry’s messages. Travis Meacham of Moses Lake, Wash., a graduate of the 2016 class, served as the group's Grower- Leader. “The PILI program last year gave me a strong foundation for returning to help this class maxi- mize their experience. I saw how each participant advanced his or her leadership skills and became more invested in the potato indus- try,” said Meacham. At the conclusion of the event, the 2017 class elected Chad Platt of Kennewick, Wash., to serve as the 2018 Grower-Leader. The Institute is made possible each year through a major sponsorship from Syngenta and a supporting sponsorship from Farm Credit. Minnesota Certified Seed Potatoes When you buy Minnesota certified seed potatoes, you’re getting a history of high performance, high quality seed. Minnesota seed is grown on a wide range of soil types, from the rich black soils of the Red River Valley to the irrigated sands of Central Minnesota to the deep peat soils of East Central and Southern Minnesota. If you want a specific variety, we can grow it. www.mda.state.mn.us/potato 218-773-4956