Forty Years and Flourishing
Fourth Decade (2005-2015)
by Paula Houlihan, Auxiliary President
The potato grows on! As the Wisconsin Potato Growers Auxiliary (WPGA) entered its fourth decade, potatoes were back on the dinner plate, but those dinner plates were shrinking and found on the family dining room table less often than past generations had seen.
With the rise of single parent families, lower number of children per family and a larger portion of the population entering retirement, the family unit was getting smaller. This created a need for smaller packaging. People were not buying twenty-pound bags of potatoes anymore.
After-school programs and extracurricular activities for kids kept parents on the run. Soccer moms came on the scene.
‘On-the-go’ and convenience became THE new normal. The traditional sit down meal for most families was becoming a thing of the past and ‘grab-and-go’ became the mantra of the 21st century.
In this new age of information, consumers became more aware of food safety and environmental issues. E.coli scares in fresh produce and meat industries generated a public demand for food traceability.
The ‘Farm-to-table’ or ‘Field to fork’ movement grew during this decade with people wanting to know all about the stages of food production: harvesting, storage, processing, packaging, sales and consumption. An emphasis on producing food locally mushroomed and remains a hot topic.
Global warming became a household term and millions embraced the responsibility to reduce their individual carbon footprint.
Along with the ever-increasing focus on environmental issues, water quality and its use in all industries, including agriculture, became another public focus.
The recession caused purse strings to tighten nationwide. Dining out decreased, however, due to the demand for low-cost convenient food, the fast food market held its own. Value and cost were on the public mind.
During these changing times, the potato industry faced new challenges and the Auxiliary was there to support our growers in facing these issues throughout this tumultuous decade.
Believing that education is the key to encouraging the sale and consumption of Wisconsin potatoes, we continued our focus on our educational program, Kids Dig Wisconsin Potatoes.
Teaching children about potato nutrition and the economic value it offers to the dinner menu helps them grow into adults who value potatoes as part of their daily diets.
We also focused our advertising efforts on promoting quick, low-calorie, low-cost potato meals.
In an added effort to meet the increasing demand for easy, healthy and low cost meals for the shrinking family unit, WPGA created new cookbooks and creative ways to include potatoes in one-dish meals and meals for two.
WPGA conducted cooking demonstrations and distributed brochures throughout the state, boasting easy, fast and healthy ways to cook potatoes.
To support the Wisconsin potato industry on environmental issues, we combined efforts with Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), WPVGA Associate Division and Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association (WSPIA) through the Promotions Committee, to develop and create the Spudmobile, a mobile education unit.
A striking ‘billboard’ for the industry, the Spudmobile travels across the state, educating the public about Wisconsin potatoes, farming practices and our industry.
WPGA also teaches children and adults alike about the new technologies agriculture uses to protect and wisely use the environmental resources of which our family farms are proud stewards.
We accomplish this through presentations with the Spudmobile visits to schools, organizations and events throughout the state.
We also introduce the public to our member growers’ family farms and their agricultural practices, who grow the food that finds its way to the dinner plate.
In addition, our most recent project, Feed My Starving Children Mobile Packing, has distributed over half-a-million potato-based meals to starving children around the globe. This annual event demonstrates our desire to feed the world and share the caring heart of the Wisconsin potato industry.
REMEMBERING OUR OUTSTANDING MEMBERS
The Auxiliary acknowledges the outstanding members of our forth decade. These women were awarded Farm Woman of the Year:
2006 Charlotte (Nicky) Wirz
2007 Joan (Tippie) Williams
2008 Diane Wysocki
2009 Sara Stelter
2010 Caroline Wild
2011 Brenda Bula
As the saying goes, “We’ve come a long way baby!” Cheers to our flourishing forty years promoting and supporting the Wisconsin potato industry and to the visionary women who made it all happen.
We look forward to another forty years! Whatever the future holds, may the delicious and nutritious potato grow on!