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.
Settled in 1873 by August Pavelski when he emigrated from Poland, this fifth generation farm began with 80 acres near Amherst-Junction. That’s where August’s great-grandson, Richard Pavelski, grew up. Richard became active in the farm business after graduating from Pacelli High School in 1967. In 1990, Richard formed a partnership with Dave Knights, who has been instrumental in using innovative new technologies and developing new agronomic and storage protocols for emerging varieties. TJ Kennedy, Dave’s successor as VP of farm operations, continues this practice today.
Now a 20,000+ acre potato and vegetable farm located in Hancock, WI, Heartland Farms operates in five Wisconsin counties and ships out of four locations. The farm is proud to grow sweet corn, peas, green beans and soybeans for processing. They also produce many varieties of potatoes.
Nearly 150 years since its beginnings, Richard Pavelski stays active in the industry as the company’s CEO along with his son and current president, Jeremie. The 2011 WPVGA Young Grower of the Year, Jeremie has served on the Association’s Board of Directors as well as the Chip Committee and Water Task Force.
It’s the Water Task Force that is playing an active role in educating the public about a topic Jeremie says remains one of the most significant challenges facing the potato and vegetable industry today. “I would say the biggest issues are water regulation, chemical regulation and new potato variety development,” he says.
Heartland Farms operates about 100 center pivot irrigation systems, which are critical to a crop that is significantly sensitive to stress compared to other crops. Jeremie says irrigation is vital for maintaining yield and quality.
“If you look at agricultural statistics, you will notice there are fewer acres of potatoes grown in Wisconsin than in the past,” Jeremie says. “This is due in part to increased yields from proper water and nutrient management. To supply the ever-growing population with a consistent food supply, we need to increase yields while lowering the inputs used.”
Besides getting word out about farmers’ conservation efforts around water, Jeremie has another goal when it comes to chips and giving them a positive image. “[Chips] are all natural and most people don’t know that. We need to keep up-to-date and stay involved and focused on the new regulations that are coming to the industry,” he says.
Jeremie is a 2000 graduate of Amherst High School, a 2002 graduate of North Central Technical College in Wausau and has a degree in Computer Networking. He also attended business management courses at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Jeremie enjoys boating, computers, skiing, biking and spending time outside. He is married to his wife, Alicia.