Healthy Grown Grower Feature: Plover River Farms
Being a part of something positive is never a bad thing, especially when it serves a greater purpose in the bigger picture. Such is the case with the Healthy Grown program and a big reason why Plover River Farms in Stevens Point joined the program when it first began back in the mid-1990’s.
After seeing the need for growers to take an active role in promoting and preserving agriculture while also encouraging the development of natural habitats, Plover River Farms Crop Advisor Daniel Schwind says the farm saw an opportunity in Healthy Grown to promote positive change and took advantage of it.
Why did you decide to join the HG program?
World Wildlife Foundation [also] took note and expressed a desire to collaborate with growers and agreed to work with us developing a program we use today. In return we were allowed to use the WWF logo, but didn’t estimate the expense associated with marketing sustainable potatoes.
How much time do you spend on the program each year?
Working as a team, PRF collaborates with Healthy Grown Staff and UW- Researchers to develop wide-reaching plans that encompass all aspects and goals of the Healthy Grown program. [This includes] pesticide, disease, and chemical resistance management, as well as creating habitat development plans. Once developed, these annual plans vary little from year to year, so after the first year, time spent on the program is minimal.
What is the “value-added” you see coming back to your farm and you as a grower?
The value we see coming back to the farm is the fact that being healthy grown sets us apart from other growers. In today’s markets, where the consumer plays a more active role than ever before, we feel that any actions we can take to grow a more marketable potato pay dividends.
Why would you encourage other potato/vegetable growers to become HG growers?
Being a member of Healthy Grown allows us to make positive impacts on the environment and community. By implementing plans created as a part of Healthy Grown we are able to place a positive image on our farm. Taking an active role in the creation and management of pollinator habitat we not only benefit our crops but provide habitat for a variety of wildlife.
What are some challenges you have experienced as a HG grower/with the program?
The largest challenge we have faced being a part of the program is being unable to receive a premium for all the hard work and dedication that comes with being a Healthy Grown grower.
What do you think about expanding the HG program?
We think it’s great. The more growers that are involved the greater the benefit. By increasing the scope of Healthy Grown we can brand Wisconsin Potatoes as the most “Green” potatoes in the country, and with market trends demanding more sustainable practices we feel that consumers would desire Wisconsin potatoes.
Why do you think expanding the program is essential for the program itself as well as for Wisconsin potato growers?
The fact of the matter is that regulatory groups and the general public want to see change in the way production agriculture operates. We feel that by being a part of Healthy Grown we are ahead of the curve. We feel that if more growers were to be involved in Healthy Grown it would show the general public that the Potato industry is taking an active role in the improvement of the places we call home.
Does expanding the program give the growers and the state a good image, and if so, how?
Of course! Any actions we take to better the land provides growers with a better image. By providing habitat that is a stark contrast to the ag fields we operate in, we show the general public that we care about the land. By giving up an acre or two here and there we can put a positive spin on production ag, and we feel that is priceless.
What advice do you have for growers not currently part of the program in encouraging them to participate?
Some advice to those who are not involved in Healthy Grown and are interested in joining would be to contact a Healthy Grown grower and see what the process is like. Take a look at habitat management areas, look at IPM plans, and grower standards. It may be something as simple as utilizing practices your operation already implements. Taking an active roll in habitat management is more than just a “feel good” practice, it is truly fulfilling to see underutilized lands (such as dry corners) being turned in native grasslands flourishing with native wildlife and plants.