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.
In 1955, Albert’s son, Robert took over the farm with his brother, Tony. They sold the dairy farm and began focusing solely on seed potatoes, which pushed them to eventually buy more land and turn a dairy barn into a potato storage facility.
Together, the brothers farmed 70 acres of potatoes, and created Gallenberg Equipment, a company that manufactured potato equipment. The farm grew along with their newly-created business, which ultimately allowed Tony to take over Gallenberg Equipment and Robert to continue to farm.
About 30 years later, Robert retired, leaving the farm to its current owners/operators, John and his brother, Roy Gallenberg. In the late 80’s, John’s brother-in-law, Loren Barske, also joined the farm, which grew throughout the years to several hundred acres of potatoes, oats, and in previous years, wheat.
While a majority of the varieties Gallenberg Farms produces are seed potatoes, a portion also goes to the fresh market. “We usually try to get started planting around May 10,” John Gallenberg says. “The week before, we clean the warehouse and disinfect where our seed cutting operation is located. Generally speaking it usually takes us ten planting days, where we’re planting 12 hours a day. We have 15 different seed lots, so we lose some time keeping the lots separate and cleaning in between lots,” he continues.
Gallenberg says they also follow a 3-year crop rotation plan and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies. “We added GPS auto steer to the tractor that pulls the planter. We get straighter rows and the guess rows are very accurate. Now, my level of stress is a lot less. Plus, you can turn around and watch the planter and see how everything is working. That gives you peace of mind, too,” Gallenberg adds.
He also says they’ve been leaving sprayer alleys out of production, which has led to fewer green ends, fewer crooked potatoes and less rot. Additionally for irrigating, Gallenberg says they “can use hard hoses down the sprayer alleys which makes [the irrigation process] easier.”
Gallenberg has now been farming just shy of 50 years. He previously served as President and board member of the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association (WSPIA) board of directors, and has been a long-time member of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA). He also received the WSPIA Leadership Award in 2010.
John is married to his wife, Mary. They have six children and four grandchildren. John enjoys deer hunting and playing poker. He currently farms 260 acres of potatoes and 600 acres of oats.