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The impact of agriculture in Waushara County explained at March 18 meeting

March 24, 2011 | 0 comments

An agriculture information meeting sponsored by the Waushara County Alice in Dairyland Committee was held March 18 at the World War II Memorial. This year's Alice in Dairyland Committee held an informative gathering to better inform residents about the impact of agriculture in Waushara County.

The meeting included Christine Lindner, the current Alice in Dairyland; Paul Miller, of Paul Miller Farms, Hancock; Jeff Sommers representing Wysocki Farms and RPE, Bancroft; and Kevin Krentz, owner of Krentz Dairy Farm on State Highway 21 in the east end of the county. The three farm representatives were among the major contributors for this yeas Alice in Dairyland finals, which will be held May 12-14 in Waushara County. There will be six finalists introduced for the first time at a press conference on Friday, March 25, at the Hancock Agriculture Station.

Lindner noted she travels about 40,000 miles a year promoting agriculture.

Miller said that the vegetable crops grown in Waushara County include carrots, potatoes, peas, sweet corn and beans. The sandy soil under irrigation along with the help of fertilizer and crop rotation produces a variety of quality vegetable crops.

Miller said he is most intrigued that Waushara's sandy soil can grow carrots. In years past, carrots were only grown on farms that had a heavy soil or muck farms. Through research, hybrids have been introduced and there are 4,400 acres of carrots planted in Wisconsin. Between Miller and the Patrykus farms, there are approximately 2,200 acres of carrots planted annually.

"Through research, we can now grow quality carrots in what we refer to as chipmunk sand," Miller said.

He went on to say that Wisconsin, a dairy state, offers so much more. Waushara County is a great example of the diversity of agriculture including Christmas trees, honey farms, apple orchards, vegetable farming, strawberries, gladioli gardens and so much more.

Sommers said that his agriculture career began in 1982 when he was a sophomore in high school and planted a single acre of potatoes. He is now a partner in a 13,000-acre vegetable operation owned and managed by a total of six owners in three companies. RPE is a national marketing firm that buys and sells potatoes; Paragon Potato Farms specializes in packaging; and Wysocki Produce lands into production.

Sommers said that they found in their marketing that they needed to find a way to grow and store potatoes so they were available 12 months of the year. Potatoes are living organisms, which means in order to keep them fresh they have to be stored in controlled humidity and ventilation. They grow 3,800 acres of potatoes each year. Sommers said they own 11,500 acres and farm 13,000 acres. Sommers said their operation includes 180 full-time employees and 129 seasonal, and of those employees 52 are from Waushara County.

Krentz said he started his operation with 60 cows he purchased from his dad in 1994, and expanded to 360 cows in 1999. This allowed the business to add labor and more of a family life. In 2006, Krentz increased the herd to 550 cows and 300 steers.

They crop out about 500 acres. He also added that 62 percent of the expenditures for the operation are within 15 miles. He said the cows produce 1.2 million pounds of milk per month, and they are growing their business to become more efficient.

"We buy semi loads cheaper, and hire custom harvesters to harvest 600 acres of hay in two days. Quality feed gives quality milk," Krentz said.

In addition to the dairy operation, Krentz is president of the Waushara County Farm Bureau and a member of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, and is running for town chairman. He said he attributes his successful operation to a supportive wife and his 13 dedicated employees.

"I empower my employees to succeed," he added. "The dairy industry has changed - we are now managing people who manage cows," he said.

Waushara County will host the 64th Alice in Dairyland Finals on May 12-14. These agriculture businesses along with several others will be toured by this year's six finalists that will be announced this Friday, March 25, at a news conference at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station. The actual finals take place Saturday, May 14, at the McComb/Bruchs Performing Arts Center, Wautoma.

Major contributors are for the $5,000 level - Waushara Tourism Resource Commission; $2,500 level - Waushara County Farm Bureau Federation, Wautoma Area Schools' McComb/Bruchs Performing Arts Center, Frontier FS Cooperative, Agri-View, Wisconsin State Farmer, Waushara Argus; and $1,000 level - Wysocki Produce Farm Inc., Waushara County Dairy Promotions, Waupaca-Waushara Holstein Breeders Association, Waushara County Fair Association, Waushara Industries, Waupaca Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, and an anonymous donor.

For more information or to make a contribution, contact Ken Williams at ken.williams@ces.uwex.edu, or visit www.aliceindairyland.com/.

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