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.
Bob Berard of Paramount Farms has served as a primary owner along with Denzel Beggs, the plant manager of 35 plus years. Denzel’s son, Rod, bought the operation with Bob Berard in October 2013. Then in July 2014, Bushmans’ Inc. of Rosholt purchased one-third of the operation.
Midwestern Potatoes focuses primarily on fresh market russet potatoes. Rod knows the operation in and out, and works almost non-stop to make sure everything runs properly. He says the facility can store up to 440,000 cwt. of potatoes. “We are capable of running well over 1 million cwt. of potatoes a year,” Beggs says. “But the last two years we have packed closer to 600,000 cwt. We are expecting to pack about 800,000 cwt. this season.”
And with that storage capacity comes the capability to handle a wide range of potato packaging. “We package in poly and poly-mesh bags, as well as paper master bales along with mesh and poly master bales,” Beggs states. “We handle hundreds of different brands and labels.”
To meet their packing needs, Beggs says they use “two 12-scale Volmpacks and two 14-scale AB Manufaktur baggers.” “We have a 5-lane Hagan Sizer and three lanes have x-ray capability for hollow heart detection and shape sizing. We also have a 30-poud Hagan Box Filler.” Beggs continues.
It’s a vocation that has been and continues to be full of trends according to Beggs, who says he’s seeing more fancy packaging with lots of graphics. He also says specialty packs are on the rise. Beggs says these consist of 5-9 ounce potatoes or a 10-ounce minimum.
One of the largest changes to potato packaging, however, lies in the machinery. “Automation is the biggest [change],” Beggs notes. “Automatic balers, palletizers and graders are becoming much more common.” It’s a new phase of technology Beggs says they are currently looking into.
Beggs is a graduate of Tri-County High School and is a member of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA). He also maintains Primus GFS Certification at his facility. Rod and his wife, Candace, have three children. Rod enjoys hunting, boating and snowmobiling.