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.
As soon as visitors enter, they are taken on an intentional journey from field to fork, beginning with farmers’ growing practices, use of up-to-date technology and practices that conserve Mother Nature’s resources at the Environmental Stewards exhibit. They then continue onto getting some delicious and healthy potato recipes at the Potato Variety and Recipe kiosk, which in turn links up to a plethora of other potato recipes at eatwisconsinpotatoes.com/recipes, that are fit for any meal or time of day.
The next exhibit, Field to Fork, is one favorite of kids and adults alike. 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. This is the first of three exhibits that were recently updated to include more kid-friendly games and messaging, though it’s become apparent that adults enjoy the updates just as much as the children!
Once they experience the Field to Fork process, they move onto seeing a map of Wisconsin showing where fresh and seed potatoes are grown, as well as where the Badger State’s three agricultural research stations are located. Additionally, there are images of some of the very growers who provide those potatoes.
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 two 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! 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 exhibit showing the history of potato growing in WI and at the Interactive Touch Table, which is another favorite of kids and their parents.
The Interactive Touch Table is a giant TV/iPad that is loaded with potato-related games. One of the most popular games involves circling two bugs of the same color before they run off. This is the final exhibit that WPVGA recently updated to include additional games like Potato Ping Pong and Growing Potatoes, to name a few, which are a huge hit for people of all ages and backgrounds.
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 has in turn proven 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.