Interview with Charles Wachsmuth
By Joe Kertzman, managing editor, Badger Common’Tater
The largest processor and exporter of kidney beans in the world, Chippewa Valley Bean, located in Menomonie, Wisconsin, exports over 70 percent of the beans they handle.
It all started with Russell and Nancy Doane who, when they started farming, fell in love with the land. As their family grew, so did their passion for agriculture.
They expanded the family’s traditional livestock farm (homesteaded in 1858) to one focused on dark red kidney beans.
Founded in 1973, specifically for the purpose of cleaning and marketing the beans grown on Doane Farms, Russell partnered with Bob Wachsmuth to start the Chippewa Valley Bean processing operation so they could begin cleaning and shipping kidney beans to domestic canners around the Midwest.
Over the years, the company grew, and Chippewa Valley Bean started contracting with other growers in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The company exported its first load of beans to the United Kingdom, in the early 1980’s, and developed an export market from there.
As the business has grown and changed, Russell, now 90 years young, and Nancy have remained excited and pleased with the transition to the next generation.
Their belief in family, pride, respect for the land and the production of quality food, which was the motivation nearly 50 years ago, still sustains them today, providing energy and inspiration for tomorrow with the next generation playing a major role in what is now a joint management corporation.
Russell and Nancy’s three children, Cindy Brown, Ruth Anne Hofland and Brian Doane, along with long-time business partner, Wachsmuth, are all shareholders and a major part of the business today.
Cindy is the president of Chippewa Valley Bean and plays a leadership role in the bean industry while Ruth Anne oversees quality control.
Brian and Bob’s positions overlap in many areas, with Bob primarily responsible for production and Brian in charge of processing.
Each of them has been a part of the business for the past 40 years, and they all have the same pride and belief in keeping the family tradition going for many years to come.
Russell’s grandson and Cindy’s son, Charles Wachsmuth, is vice president of Chippewa Valley Bean and this issue’s interviewee.