Wisconsin potato growers aren’t just fine stewards of the land, they’re also stewards of food safety, produce traceability, sustainable agricultural practices, and, oh yes, they sure know how to put America’s best potatoes on the plates of American families. Meet our growers.
“I like to say that I have an important but easier chapter in this farm’s history,” says Dan Wild, president of Wild Seed Farms, Inc., in Antigo, Wisconsin. The reputation that my Grandpa Leonard made for himself was what helped sell our quality seed. From that day, I not only realized the hard work that it takes to build a reputation, but how easily it can be lost.”
Wild says that thirty or 40 years ago, it took a big crew to run the farm. He learned a lot about work ethic from all the family members he worked with as well as from the non-family members who were part of making the farm a success.Meet Dan
“I am thankful to be able to work in the Plover area and I try my best to give back to the community by participating in [area] events, fundraisers, and other activities. I feel you get back as much as you put in,” Mark says.
At Okray Family Farms, Mark Finnessy continuously deals with all levels of the industry from processors to the public who ultimately consume the operation’s produce.Meet Mark
“It’s been all my life. We were Dad’s help when we were young,” fondly recalls Michael Helbach of Helbach Farms, LLC, in Amherst, Wisconsin, “helping as early as I can remember on the farm. Then, right out of high school, I was full time.”
When Mike went full-time on the farm after high school, his dad, Bob, put him to work in the office.Meet Mike
The 2014 potato growing season presented a number of challenges for Wisconsin’s farmers from start to finish this year. But like any other farming organization, Seidl Farms, Inc., of Deerbrook, WI, worked with Mother Nature to overcome those challenges, helping them add yet another year of certified seed potato production to their long history.
Frank Seidl, owner and founder of Seidl Farms, began planting potatoes when he was 21; he farmed a total of 20 acres in Bryant. The year was 1949 when the farm incorporated dairy as well as about 15 acres of potatoes for the fresh market.
Many farms across Wisconsin have seen their fair share of phases over time. Such is the story of Midwestern Potatoes, LLC, in Plainfield. Once a packing shed, Midwestern Farms was established by a group of potato growers in 1977. The establishment served several growers/shareholders over the years.Meet Rod
If you’ve ever bought a bag of potato chips in Wisconsin or throughout the mid-west, chances are good that bag is packed with potatoes grown right in Wisconsin. As one of the nation’s premier suppliers of chipping potatoes, Heartland Farms has the process mastered.Meet Jeremie
1910 was the year it all began for Albert Gallenberg, the founder of Gallenberg Farms in Antigo, WI. Originally a dairy farm, potatoes took up only 20 acres. It was a specialty crop the workers would dig by hand and ship from the field come fall.Meet John
Larry was raised on a family-owned dairy farm in Wisconsin — so you’d think farming would have been a natural career choice for Larry. In fact, it wasn’t. After completing college he set off on his own and became a CPA. Enter a series of life-changing events — events that brought Larry back to agriculture and a partnership in a small produce business that repackaged potatoes and onions.Meet Larry
Coloma Farms is a study of innovation and tradition — a 2,700-acre sustainable farm run by third and fourth generation growers, Steve and Andy Diercks. Steve grew up on a potato farm near Antigo, Wisconsin. He moved with his father, Robert, to the Central Sands Plains region in Coloma, Wisconsin, where they developed a great working relationship with the University of Wisconsin (UW) potato researchers — part of the first stages leading to the development of Healthy Grown®.Meet Steve & Andy
Brothers Richard and Roderick Gumz formed Gumz Muck Farms, LLC in 1994 and are the fourth generation of Gumz family farmers. They grow, store and pack red potatoes and yellow globe onions for retail sale. The Gumz brothers raise red potatoes, carrots, field corn, soybeans and mint on 6,000 acres in three Wisconsin counties — Marquette, Columbia and Sauk.Meet Richard & Rod
Bet you didn’t know this. One of Wisconsin’s Healthy Grown potato growers — Justin Isherwood — is an accomplished author. He is a man with a talent for words. So when you ask Justin about the importance of Healthy Grown and a farmer’s responsibility to the land and people, he is quite eloquent. “There has always been an ethic to the land, a righteousness to seek that balance of the economics of the field and woods, that sacred honor of keeping land well and productive,” he notes.
“It’s something you say you won’t do and then you miss it when you’re away from it.” That’s what the general manager at Felix Zeloski’s Farm in Eagle River says of farming. A native of Wisconsin’s Northwoods and hailing from Irma, Ron Krueger grew up on his parent’s dairy farm. When he left for college to pursue a business degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, he said he would never farm again. Little did he know that life had other plans.Meet Ron
Life provides many interesting twists and turns. More often than not, you can’t predict where they will end up. Such is the interesting journey of how Mortenson Bros. Farms Inc. came to be.
It all began with an Antigo-based truck and tire business operated by brothers Gary and James Mortenson. Called Mortenson Brothers Trucking and Southside Tire, Gary and James had hauled potatoes for a farm that couldn’t pay them back. For this reason in 1968, they took on ownership of some of the crop.
Owning and operating a farm takes a lot of time and patience, but it also provides significant memories. After watching his family’s farm carry on through five generations, Eric Schroeder of Schroeder Bros. Farms Inc. in Antigo, Wisconsin, says he has lots of great memories growing up. “Our farm was established in Antigo in 1879 with crops and potatoes. In the 1960’s, my great grandpa and Uncle Tom started focusing on growing seed potatoes.”Meet Eric
Nick comes from a family of farmers — he’s third-generation — but is now the only remaining family member who is a farmer. Together, he and his wife share responsibility for their 400-acre Healthy Grown Wisconsin potato farm. A member of Healthy Grown from its inception, Nick can appreciate how far the sustainable growing program has come. “It was a long process.”Meet Nick
RPE has been around since the ’60s. Started by the Wysocki brothers, RPE continues to be a family business — and one that holds itself to a higher standard as both a Healthy Grown® grower and shipper (Healthy Grown shippers must be certified annually). Why bother with the extra work involved with sustainability? Answers Russell, “We’re stewards of the land — and this is our opportunity to do good things for the land and good things for the industry.”Meet Russell