Interview with Alex Okray
By Joe Kertzman, managing editor, Badger Common’Tater
The history of Okray Family Farms parallels that of potato and vegetable growing in Central Wisconsin. In many aspects, the family farming operation has led the way.
At 115 years young, the multi-generational grower, packer and shipper of potatoes and other fresh produce remains locally owned and calls Plover, Wisconsin, home.
Okray Family Farms was founded in 1905 by Joseph Okray Sr. as the “Joseph Okray and Bros. Company,” which started out as a small trading business in downtown Stevens Point.
By 1918, with the acquisition of some land, Okray Produce Company was formed. Resilient even during the Great Depression, the company continued buying land and adding to their acreage.
As is the history of vegetable growing in Wisconsin, the development of commercial fertilizer and reverse hydraulic irrigation after World War II gave local farmers, including the Okray family, the ability to efficiently water their crops and substantially increase potato yields.
Today, Okray Family Farms produces over 1,800 acres of potatoes and 5,900 acres of sweet corn, green beans, peas, soy and maize annually, and it remains a family affair.
With Jim Okray at the helm as president of the operation, his son, Alex, is the chief financial officer and this issue’s interviewee.
Alex is also the current vice president of the WPVGA Board, having been elected to the Board in 2019 after Mark Finnessy, vice president of Okray Family Farms, had completed his term.