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.
Between 1950 and 1980, fresh and chipping potatoes, in addition to oats and clover were included in the farms crops. 1980 then was when certified seed potatoes joined the mix.
At the time, Frank’s son, Art, was working in Colorado. However, Frank had help from his son-in-law, Jim Fassbender, who had been working on the farm since his high school graduation in 1976. To this day, Frank’s daughter and Jim’s wife, Peggy, takes care of the farm’s bookkeeping. Jim and Peggy’s son, Jeff, also joined the farm after his 2008 Antigo High School graduation.
In 1985, Art Seidl returned to the farm and currently serves as the president of an operation that raises 1,000 acres of spuds, as well as other crops like green beans, sweet corn, peas, oats, winter wheat and barley. Seidl Farms, Inc., also grows 210 acres of certified see potatoes including the following varieties: Atlantics, Goldrush, Red Norlands, Russet Norkotahs and Snowdens.
This year, Seidl says they started planting about ten days later compared to a normal year, but overall, he says he’s “pleased with the quality and yields on our seed potato crop.”
Seidl Farms has also made significant changes to their facility in the last several years. According to Seidl, not only did they improve their grading and loading capabilities by building a new shop and grading area, but they also purchased a 4-row Lenco harvester, which he says has helped reduce bruising.
“We’ve also added auto-steer,” Seidl says, “which help tremendously with planting accuracy. And we’ve upgraded and improved our irrigation systems, adding more pivots and swing arms.”
The biggest challenge though, says Seidl, is keeping the seed clean and free of disease. “We scout regularly and stay in a tight…schedule,” he adds.
Frank says he’s seen many trends over the years, one of them being a faster pace. “We’re able to harvest a lot faster now than we used to; I remember we got our first mechanical harvester in 1966. I can also remember loading boxcars with 100-pound bags of potatoes; no we can use a skid steer.”
Frank also says his deep-rooted history in the potato industry has taught him a thing or two. “Treat your help well,” he says without hesitation. “We’ve been fortunate to have good help over the years, and it’s probably because we treat them well.”
Now retired, Frank has passed the reigns onto Art and the team to keep things afloat. Art has devoted his time and energy to the potato industry in a number of ways. He has served on the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association (WSPIA) board of directors, and is a past president. He also previously served on the Wisconsin Potato Industry Board, has been Wisconsin’s representative on the United States Potato Board, and has served on the WPVGA Vegetable Committee. He is a faithful member of the WPVGA and WSPIA.
Art enjoys hunting and fishing. He and his wife, Gay, have four daughters and a son.