Ranked third in the nation for potato production, and number one east of the Mississippi, Wisconsin potato growers produce a colorful rainbow of these tasty spuds. In addition to Russets, you’ll find varieties in red, white, yellow and even purple potatoes to add variety to your favorite meal recipes.
Wisconsin’s Central Sands region is prime land for growing potatoes. Recently I headed over to Wysocki Produce Farm to tour their facility. Founded in the late 1950s by three brothers, Louis, Francis and Greg Wysocki, WFC began as a potato farm, which still exists as Wysocki Produce Farm. The farm is still owned and operated by the family, with the second generation currently running the company. The second-generation owners of WFC are Russell, Jim, Gary and Bill Wysocki, Kirk Wille and Jeff Sommers.
The beginning of our tour started at Paragon Potato Farm with tour guide Nate Knutson (RPE Account Manager).
Nate walked me through the various steps of how potatoes are cleaned and packaged. Potatoes need a lot of care as bruising can cause serious loss to potato growers. To prevent bruising, staff inspect and adjust harvesting equipment frequently. Potatoes are either stored in refrigerated warehouses or in non-refrigerated bulk bins up to 20 feet deep. In bulk bins, air is forced from the floor through corrugated metal ducts up throughout the pile. This process ensures good distribution of cool yet humid air, which decreases shrinkage, sprouting and decay.
Nate showed us how potatoes are graded into different categories based on quality and appearance. Potatoes even go through “x-rays” to ensure that the potato is perfect on the inside without hollow spaces. Potatoes are separated by size, variety, and quality.
AJ Bussan, Ph.D. is the Agronomy Director at Wysocki Produce Farm. AJ arranged a tour in a potato harvester. These machines work by lifting soil and potatoes up onto a series of chain webs where loose soil and small rocks are sieved out. The potatoes are moved to the back of the harvester and separated from large rocks, clods and vines. The potatoes then go on to a side elevator and into a trailer/potato box. Care is taken to never drop the potato more than 6 inches to avoid bruising. Potato trucks have special folding sides to ensure minimal drop!
Wysocki Family of Companies (WFC) is a vertically integrated, Midwest-based farm specializing in potatoes and onions. WFC is comprised of RPE, Inc.; Wysocki Produce Farm; Paragon Potato Farms, Inc.; and Paragon Specialties. Wysocki Family of Companies is also a partner in Central Sands Dairy and Tasteful Selections, LLC.