“It’s been all my life. We were Dad’s help when we were young,” fondly recalls Michael Helbach of Helbach Farms, LLC, in Amherst, Wisconsin, “helping as early as I can remember on the farm. Then, right out of high school, I was full time.”
When Mike went full-time on the farm after high school, his dad, Bob, put him to work in the office. “He said to learn the office first, which is why he put me in that position—I don’t think he liked doing it,” Mike recalls.
“Having worked in the fields as a kid, the first thing he had me do as an adult was the book side and then transition into the field and everything else that’s involved in the operation,” he adds.
“As kids, we had a water-drive irrigation system with winch pulls and guns. Now everything is automatic. Now we have telemetry on irrigation systems,” Mike relates.
Helbach Farms has been a mainstay in the Amherst, Wisconsin, area, dating back to the 1930’s when Mike’s grandfather, George, started farming.
It was primarily a dairy back then, although they grew 8-10 acres of potatoes annually and sold them throughout Central Wisconsin.
In 1974, Bob and his wife, Helen, took over the farm, transitioning it from dairy to vegetables. In 1980, Bob began raising potatoes and later became one of the top growers of processed spuds for Ore-Ida Foods, winning “Top Grower” and “Bruise Free” awards.
Mike and his brother, Kirk, officially joined the farm in the 1990’s, eventually taking over the reins of the now large potato growing operation from their dad.
While Kirk is the storage manager, and Mike the farm manager, Bob is still involved on the farm, as well, driving tractor and semi-hauling corn, as well as taking on the role of consultant for his boys.
As for the farm’s future, Mike says they are “trying to bring in the next generation, working on that succession plan, that is our hope as members of the farm. All members agree that it is important to keep this farm going. That is one of our main goals for the next generation.”