There may be other popcorn growers and processors in New England, though you will be hard-pressed to find a more philosophical one than Dan Dzen, SUNY Cobleskill class of 2017. The founder of Podunk Popcorn, Dzen operates his company in South Windsor, Connecticut, along the banks of the Podunk River.
Beyond acquiring the technical skills and education necessary to operate his business, Dzen says his time at SUNY Cobleskill imparted wisdom he carries with him every day. As critical as upkeeping his corn fields is a thirst for knowledge.
“Over time I discovered asking the right question is often more important than having the right answer,” explains Dzen, of the lessons he learned at SUNY Cobleskill. “My involvement with the Ag Business Club and other extracurriculars helped hone my leadership style and build cohesive teams with strong camaraderie and passion for success.”
Dzen singles out Drs. Jason Evans and Sophie Ano as instrumental to both his education and career. “I was able to take their teachings and use them as a framework for everyday decisions in my business,” says Dzen.
Business is bustling. Since graduating in 2017 Dzen has created wholesale accounts with regional grocers, developed and grown his online direct-to-consumer sales, and broken ground on a processing facility.
Agriculture runs in the Dzen family; Dzen Tree Farm is home to Podunk’s first popcorn lot. Still, there is no substitute for on-the-job training. The decision to sell popcorn kernels in glass jars is the result of multi-year product evolution. The successes of popcorn farming stem from lessons learned after three years of failed sweet corn harvests. Dzen says his open mindset also contributes to his ability to make educated business decisions, helping expand his business. “At SUNY Cobleskill I dove deep into reading books on many, varying topics,” says Dzen. “I have already begun to reap the benefits of a life-long hunger for knowledge.”
Feature photo: Podunk Popcorn’s founder: Dan Dzen ’17