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75 Years of Progress

Ben Diercks

WPVGA Celebrates 75th Anniversary in 2023

By Tamas Houlihan, Executive Director, WPVGA

Steve & Andy Diercks
Steve & Andy Diercks

The year was 1948. President Harry S. Truman was reelected in an upset over Thomas Dewey. “Howdy Doody” was the most popular TV show. Cleveland (yes, Cleveland) defeated Boston, 4 games to 2, to win the World Series.

More importantly, potato yields in Wisconsin were averaging 96 cwt. (hundredweight) per acre. With 78,000 acres of potatoes grown in the state, total production was close to 7.5 million cwt.

Fast forward 75 years. Wisconsin potato yields are now routinely 425+ cwt./acre, and with 63,000 acres grown, the state produces over 25 million cwt. annually, ranking third in the United States. (And Cleveland has still not won another World Series.)

Avis & Louis Wysocki

The year 2023 marks the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA). The original Association was incorporated in 1948, so this year we are celebrating 75 years of progress.

The original group of growers who formed the Association adopted the name “Potato Growers of Wisconsin,” and the Articles of Incorporation were signed by Ben Diercks, Felix Zeloski, Barron West, and Luke Kuczmarski.

Diercks was elected as the first president and Edward Okray was elected vice president. (Do the names, “Diercks” and “Okray” sound familiar to anyone?)

Jerry Bushman with Mad Dog & Merrill

The Association was set up as a non-profit organization to organize the potato growers and handlers of the state to promote and protect their interests; and to arrange, hold and conduct meetings of potato growers and potato handlers in the state.

Office space was acquired in the Fidelity Savings Bank of Antigo and Cliff Hutchinson was employed as the first Executive Secretary. The bank is now Chase Bank of Antigo, but the office remains there.

Click here to read the full Badger Common’Tater article.

Badger CommonTater

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