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Potato Growers Plant Prairies

Practitioners of Wisconsin’s Healthy Grown program take an eco-friendly approach to farming

By Joe Kertzman, managing editor, Badger Common’Tater

Plover River Farms Prairie
Dianne Somers of Plover River Farms says their prairies provide natural havens for wildlife, birds, butterflies, bees and many other species. She and husband, Nick, even spotted a rare bird, a dickcissel.

About 15 years ago, Wisconsin’s Healthy Grown program developed a new component, the ecosystem element. The goal was to attract local potato and vegetable growers with a desire to make their farms environmentally friendly.

“Ted Anchor was the advisor for the new program and suggested we turn unused corners and areas on our farm into natural prairies,” explains Dianne Somers of Plover River Farms Alliance in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. “We agreed.”

“To plant the prairie, I drove a pickup truck, and from the back bed, Ted scattered the seeds with a leaf blower. Then we packed the seeds down with tractor wheels,” Somers says. “Amazingly, it turned out great. That was the start.”

Since then, other growers in and outside of the Healthy Grown program have started prairies. By slowly adding more unused acres, Plover River Farms now has a total of 60 acres devoted to prairies.

The Healthy Grown program was developed in the mid-1990’s via a collaborative effort between the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), the World Wildlife Fund, the University of Wisconsin and other conservation groups such as the International Crane Foundation and the Defenders of Wildlife.

The program involves a whole-farm approach using the best environmental practices possible, from reduced pesticide use to promotion of ecological standards on the farm.

Current potato and vegetable growers enrolled in the Healthy Grown program include Alsum Farms, Gary Bula Farms, Coloma Farms, Gumz Muck Farms, Isherwood Family Farms, Okray Family Farms, Plover River Farms and Wysocki Produce Farm.

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