What to Expect
Experience is everything. People will go to great lengths for the chance at an unforgettable experience. In many cases, they are happy to pay an extra amount of money, simply because they know they will have an amazing experience.
The concept of providing “an experience” was at the heart of every discussion as the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) planned the Wisconsin Spudmobile® in the days leading up to its August 2014 debut.
A 37.5’ RV, the interior of which was gutted and replaced with eight different interior exhibits that each provide a different vantage point into the lives of potato farmers as well as the industry, is also decked out with a vinyl wrap that screams “Wisconsin Potatoes” right from the get-go.
Explore each individual exhibit below.
Sustainability is at the heart of every Wisconsin grower and is certainly a topic becoming more and more important to consumers and younger generations. As soon as visitors enter the Spudmobile, they are taken on an intentional journey from field to fork.
As the phrase indicates, this starts with Wisconsin’s multi-generational family farms and each farmer’s ability to conserve Mother Nature’s resources for future generations while also using up-to-date technology to produce the highest-quality potatoes in the land!
Next, visitors can tempt their tastebuds by looking at some delicious and healthy potato recipes at the Potato Variety and Recipe Kiosk.
But recipes aren’t the only interesting thing on this exhibit! Did you know that Wisconsin grows the most potato varieties of any state?
This exhibit features some of the more popular including Russet Burbank, Norkotah, Silverton and Gold Rush, specialty varieties like Fingerlings and Purples, Red Norland, Yellow/Gold, and White Snowden and Superior.
Touch a potato variety at this exhibit and specific information about that variety appear on the screen overhead. This information includes the variety’s origin, flavor, favorite uses, fun facts and of course, a delectable image of a dish using that variety. Next to the prepared dish is a QR code that links to more Recipes that are fit for any meal or time of day.
The next exhibit, Field to Fork, is one family favorite for sure! It features three iPads complete with games that literally help visitors “experience” the field to fork process.
They have to cut the potato seed, plant it, then irrigate, harvest, and package the potatoes. The final level is mashing America’s favorite vegetable right in the bowl to be served at dinner.
Players must complete each level in a certain amount of time and can report their scores. It’s a competitive and yet educational way to see how Wisconsin potatoes get from growers’ fields to families’ plates!
Once they experience the Field to Fork exhibit, they move onto the Interactive Grower Map which features the state of Wisconsin broken into counties all on a large touchscreen.
Visitors can touch a county to see which Wisconsin potato-growing farms are located in that county. Additionally, they can click on a specific farm name and information as well as images will come up about that particular farm. Some of this information includes multi-generational family origins of the farm, crops grown and number of acres produced.
Besides the farms, visitors can also become more acquainted with the research side of the industry by reading about the different agricultural research stations located in Rhinelander, Antigo and Hancock.
Video segments playing at the back of the Spudmobile at the TheaTater exhibit help visitors further understand growing practices and water use.
WPVGA updated the videos in this exhibit as well, to include an “Into the Outdoors” episode the Association produced to showcase the potato-production process. This video, along with several thirty-second commercials are some examples that really speak to younger generations and consumers about the importance of buying local.
Next, Spudmobile visitors move onto the Potato Nutrition and Fun Facts Wall. This area is loaded with information about the health benefits potatoes naturally provide, as well as unique uses for potatoes, including the fact that they were the first vegetable grown in outer space thanks to collaborative efforts with a team at the University of Wisconsin Madison!
They can read about all the facts and nutrition they can handle while sitting on loaded baked potato bean bag chairs complete with butter pillows! If there was ever a time when loaded baked potatoes could easily be called a comfort food, this is it!
Spudmobile visitors finish up at the History Wall which shows the history of potato growing in Wisconsin.
Nostalgic black and white images show just how far the industry has come! Seed cutting used to be done only by hand, as did planting and harvesting. Now, everything is done with state-of-the-art technology, managing irrigation systems with the touch of a button on a phone or tablet and tracking everything with GPS coordinates.
While the history wall focuses on the past, it certainly makes one appreciate the strides made with modern-day conveniences.
If there was ever an exhibit no one wanted to leave, it would be the Interactive Touch Table. It’s easily one of the most popular interactive exhibits that calls the vehicle home.
The Interactive Touch Table is a giant TV/iPad that is loaded with potato-related games. One of the most fun games is what many refer to as the “bug game.” It involves circling two bugs of the same color before they run off the screen. Once two bugs are circled, they become a bigger bug. Each player must continue circling two bugs until all the bugs of that color are gone. That constitutes a winner!
Other games to choose from are Potato Ping Pong, Growing Potatoes and Puzzles, to name a few. Each game is a true hit and makes learning fun!
Once visitors leave, they do so with a renewed perspective of an industry so important and valuable to the Badger State and the world.
To date, the Wisconsin Spudmobile® has traveled to more than 100 events including schools, industry-related events and community-related events which include but are not limited to fairs, dairy breakfasts, festivals, parades, and sporting events as some examples.
Not even Wisconsin’s frigid temperatures have kept it stationary for long. It continues traveling throughout the year and has appeared at a number of Packer Games right at the Frozen Tundra’s Lambeau Field. Sporting events like these have helped raise an invaluable awareness to fans of the Packers and their opponents.
With grower and industry member volunteers at Spudmobile events, this vehicle allows for a face-to-face conversation with people about how their food is produced and why farmers do what they do.
As more and more members of the public inquire about how food gets to their plate, this face-to-face opportunity is an experience that is priceless to consumers and growers alike. It’s an experience that doesn’t stop at the Spudmobile, but carries into people’s homes, at their dinner tables and passes from one generation to the next.
Here’s to the farmers who provide healthy and quality food for your family and for mine. And here’s to the unforgettable experience you can have at every meal as a result.