Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

Wisconsin Potato Farm Wins Environmental Award

January 16th, 2012 | Posted in: News, Sustainable Farming

Congratulations to Heartland Farms — a fifth generation family farm headquartered in Hancock, Wisconsin — for winning the 2011 National Potato Council Environmental Stewardship Award.

Sustainability has long been a practice for the Pavelski family. The original farm consisted of 80 acres and was started by August Pavelski — great-great-grandfather to Richard Pavelski, current CEO of Heartland Farms — in 1873. By 1908, the Pavelski family was shipping potatoes to Chicago by rail car. Today, the farm consists of 15,000 acres, with 8,000 acres dedicated to growing sustainable potatoes for the potato chip industry. Heartland Farms has advanced storage facilities that can hold 175,000 tons of produce and ships about 60 truck loads each day.

In order to be a quality food source, notes Jeremie Pavelski, growers need to preserve the very resources that are their livelihood. To that end, the Pavelski family teams with University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) researchers on a wide variety of sustainable projects — always seeking to improve their sustainable means of farming.

Heartland Farms:

  • Preserves and protects natural resources.
  • Takes care of its employees and its community.
  • Works to develop economically viable means of sustainable farming that don’t sacrifice long-term conservation and preservation goals for short-term profits.

As part of its sustainable practices, Heartland Farms:

  • Utilizes low horse power and low pressure irrigation systems with drop nozzles that reduce water loss and power use. They also utilize soil moisture probes and work with UW-Madison researchers to fine tune the irrigation schedule to ensure that water resources are preserved without placing the plants in water stress that can reduce crop outputs. Heartland Farms is also part of the Central Wisconsin Groundwater Taskforce and partakes in studies to measure how water fluctuates in irrigation wells throughout Wisconsin. All potatoes are washed with recycled water.
  • Practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control pests that can damage crops. Crop scouts monitor fields for pests and then specific areas are targeted for spraying. Crops are also rotated to limit increases in pest populations and pest mitigation resources are rotated to ensure that pests do not build resistance to treatments.
  • Utilizes advanced technologies to prevent nematodes from destroying the roots of plants, with specific and reduced fumigant applications made in targeted areas only.
  • Has reclaimed land ravaged by a forest fire. Rather than simply burning the stumps of dead trees, Heartland Farms had the stumps converted to chips that are used as a fuel source by a local power plant.
  • Restores natural habits on its non-farmed lands in order to preserve natural environments for deer, turkey, endangered Blue Karner Butterflies, waterfowl and cranes.

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