Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

WPVGA Presents Annual Industry Awards

February 7th, 2011 | Posted in: News

In addition to its annual Hall of Fame induction, the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association presented several other annual industry awards at a banquet held February 2, 2011 in Stevens Point.

Cliff Gagas of Gagas Farms, Custer, was named the WPVGA Volunteer of the Year.  Gagas serves as the Vice President of the Wisconsin Potato Industry Board.  He and his wife, Carole, have been volunteering their time and efforts at numerous industry events over the years.  This past year, they worked a booth selling potatoes at the WPS Farm Show in Oshkosh in April, then worked at the Wisconsin potatoes booth selling baked potatoes at the State Fair in Milwaukee in August, as well as selling baked potatoes at the Spud Bowl in Stevens Point in September.  They put in a lot of time before, during and after these events, often times using their own equipment and never asking for anything in return.  Gagas is well-known and well-liked in the industry and seems to maintain a smile and positive attitude at all times.

There was a tie for the WPVGA Young Grower of the Year Award.  The two winners are Jeremie Pavelski of Heartland Farms, Inc., Hancock and Dan Wild of Wild Seed Farms, Inc., Antigo.

Heartland Farms is a 14,000 acre potato and vegetable operation, specializing in chipping potatoes.  Jeremie Pavelski currently serves on the WPVGA Board of Directors.  He is the Chairman of the WPVGA Chip Committee.  He is also one of three Wisconsin representatives on the National Potato Council board of directors.    In 2010, Pavelski worked closely with the WPVGA on the EPA Tour, which is extremely valuable in demonstrating the need for certain farm practices to regulators with the EPA who otherwise would have no idea how such practices are safe and necessary for successful farming operations.   Pavelski was also instrumental in helping with an off-gassing study of metam sodium which could have far-reaching implications for the potato industry throughout the US.

Dan Wild works closely with his father, Tom, raising approximately 500 acres of certified seed potatoes, about half of which are Frito-Lay varieties.  Wild Seed Farms grows out new Frito-Lay varieties as minitubers, which require very intense management.  Wild has been serving on the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association board of Directors for the past four years, and has been the chairman of the WSPIA’s Promotions Committee for the past three years.  In 2010, he was instrumental in the re-design of the Seed Association’s web site, which now includes professional photos and feature pages on each of the farms in the Wisconsin seed potato certification program.

The WPVGA Researcher of the Year Award went to Dr. Amanda Gevens, who serves as Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison   The overall focus of her research and extension program is on identifying and addressing the disease management needs of Wisconsin’s potato and vegetable industry.  Her research projects address the following disease concerns: cucurbit powdery mildew, tomato late blight, potato corky ringspot, potato powdery scab, potato common scab, potato early blight, potato pink rot, and potato late blight.  Due in large part to Gevens’ hard work and recommendations, the Wisconsin potato industry has been fortunate to avoid widespread late blight epidemics that past two growing seasons.

The WPVGA Associate Division presented the Associate Division Business Person of the Year Award to Steve Tatro, owner of T.I.P., Inc., Custer. Tatro is a long-time member of the Associate Division who has served two, separate five-year terms on the Associate Division Board of Directors.  He served as President on the Associate Division Board and is highly regarded for his willingness to volunteer at all Associate Division functions, especially the golf outings and Hancock Field Days.  He also has been exhibiting at the WPVGA Industry Show for over 35 years, as long as T.I.P., Inc. has been in business.

The Wisconsin Potato Growers Auxiliary named Caroline Wild the Potato Industry Woman of the Year.  Wild served a three-year term as a Wisconsin representative on the United States Potato Board in the 1990s, and was one of the first women ever to serve on the USPB. She served on the Wisconsin Potato Growers Auxiliary Board of Directors for many years, including a stint as President.  She has been a group leader at the Wisconsin State Fair for many years as well.  She goes above and beyond the call of duty, helping to promote and market Wisconsin potatoes.  She is the Secretary-Treasurer for Wild Seed Farms, Inc. which raises approximately 500 acres of certified seed potatoes.  In addition to doing the bookkeeping for the farm, Wild still finds time to help out every year on the grading line during harvest. She demonstrates amazing energy and her positive attitude is infectious.

The Agri-Communicator Award for outstanding industry communication was presented to Nick Somers, owner of Plover River Farms, Stevens Point.  Somers has been involved in virtually every aspect of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, from marketing to research to governmental affairs.  He has served on the WPVGA Board of Directors as well as the Wisconsin Potato Industry Board.  He is a Past-President of the National Potato Council and serves on the WPVGA Governmental Affairs Committee.  He is politically active locally in Plover and is an international ambassador for the potato industry, having attended the World Potato Congress in New Zealand.  He is currently working diligently on the WPVGA Irrigation Task Force in an effort to protect and preserve our most precious state resource, groundwater.

2010 WPVGA President Mike Carter of Bushmans’, Inc., Rosholt, presented three President’s Awards for outstanding leadership and guidance.  The awards were given to Andy Diercks of Coloma Farms, Coloma; Jerome Bushman, founder of Bushmans’, Inc., Rosholt; and David Carter of Beloit, father of Mike.

Special Industry Appreciation Awards were presented to Alex Crockford, Dr. Molly Jahn and Dr. Ann MacGuidwin.

Crockford serves as the Langlade County Extension Agriculture Agent.  He works tirelessly on behalf of the Wisconsin potato and vegetable industry, and was instrumental in having the Antigo Flats designated as an Agricultural Enterprise Area in 2010.  This will enable landowners to receive tax credits in exchange for agreeing to keep their farmland in agricultural use.  Crockford put in a tremendous amount of time and effort in response to the late blight outbreak in potato growing areas this past summer.  He further volunteered his time to work at the booth for the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association at the recent Potato Expo in Las Vegas.

Dr. Molly Jahn recently stepped down as Dean of the University of Wisconsin College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.  She came to the College from Cornell University, where she was a professor of plant breeding and genetics and plant biology. Jahn has focused her research on breeding new vegetable varieties for use around the world and on gene discovery in crop plants. She recently took a brief leave from the university to provide interim leadership as deputy and acting undersecretary of research, education and economics for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Jahn re-energized UW-CALS, and enhanced the college’s relationship with Wisconsin’s agricultural community.  She helped grow the research enterprise and put the college in a position for future success.  She now plans to focus on contributing to the university’s broader efforts in sustainability sciences.

Dr. Ann MacGuidwin received her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Entomology, with an emphasis on Nematology.  As the UW-Madison Plant Pathology department’s only nematologist, her research projects often include a wide variety of nematode species, crops, and approaches. Members of her group often work in collaboration with other scientists in the Department. MacGuidwin has two primary research interests – the role of nematodes in the early dying disease of potato and the overwinter survival strategies of nematodes. She has demonstrated in field trials that the nematode Pratylenchus penetrans and Verticillium dahliae interact synergistically to cause potato early dying and are now studying mechanisms responsible for the interaction. The emphasis of her program on the overwinter survival of nematodes is to understand the ecological and physiological parameters which enable nematodes in Wisconsin to survive freezing. The goal of her collaborative work is to develop sustainable management strategies for nematode pests of potato, soybean, corn, and other crops important to the north central region of the U.S.

Editor’s Note:  Photos available upon request.

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