“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 hard work that my dad and grandfather put in earned a reputation of providing quality seed potatoes to customers, many of whom we still deal with today.”
“I feel an obligation to maintain that reputation,” Dan remarks.
Dan’s grandfather, Leonard Wild, founded Wild Seed Farms in partnership with his father-in-law, Lukas Sikora, in 1948. The duo raised cows, chickens, pigs and about 20 acres of potatoes.
Leonard and Lukas bought their first certified seed potatoes—Chippewa and White Sebago varieties—from WPVGA Hall of Fame grower Bill Hoeft. A few years later, Leonard became a certified seed potato grower and bought seed from WPVGA Hall of Fame grower J.W. Mattek.
In 1958, Leonard grew his first crop of Sebago certified seed potatoes.
The farm has expanded in acreage and technology over the years, with Leonard’s children becoming involved in the potato operation. Leonard’s son, Robert, has been with the farm since 1982. Leonard’s oldest son, Tom, along with his wife, Caroline, took helm of Wild Seed Farms in 1995.
In 2012, Tom and Caroline’s oldest son, Dan, along with his wife, Connie, took control, becoming the fourth generation to own and live on the farm.
Dan was honored with the WPVGA Young Grower of the Year Award, in 2011, and has served a term on the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association (WSPIA) Board of Directors, including a year as president.
“Twenty years ago,” Wild reminisces, “I remember being at a potato auction. As I was talking to an older gentleman, I introduced myself, stating that I was from Wild Seed Farms. After I said that, he commented ‘Oh, you have the good seed.’ I remember my response was something like, “Oh, yeah, no one else has good seed.” Then another farmer standing close by said, ‘No, he is telling the truth.'”
“I told my dad about the conversation,” Wild continues, “not thinking much of it. The reputation that my Grandpa Leonard made for himself, my dad explained, 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.
Wild says his hope is to see a fifth and sixth generation enjoying this way of life.