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Stevens Point - The annual Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Grower Education Conference brings together university researchers, industry suppliers and growers from throughout the state.

One of the conference highlights each year is the induction of the new members into the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) Hall of Fame (HOF), who are honored for a lifetime of achievement in the development of the state’s potato industry.

The 2017 HOF inductees were Richard Pavelski and Donald George Hamerski

Richard Pavelski

Richard “Dick” Pavelski is a fourth-generation farmer whose roots date back to 1873 when his great-grandfather, August, emigrated from Poland. While growing up, he worked on a farm that had some dairy cows, as well as potatoes and vegetables. Today, he serves as the CEO/Owner of Heartland Farms Inc., one of the largest growers of chipping potatoes in the nation.

He was born August 21, 1949, in Stevens Point, the son of Albert and Irene Pavelski. Growing up in Amherst Junction, he graduated from Pacelli High School in Stevens Point in 1967.

In 1979, Pavelski recognized the need for a dedicated full-service independent fertilizer and chemical supplier/applicator in Central Wisconsin who could meet the current and future needs of the agriculture industry, and founded Pavelski Enterprises, which developed many of the technologies still being used today

He worked with the Stennis Space Center and explored utilizing satellite imagery for precision applications. He helped pioneer many of the soil sampling techniques and variable rate application equipment that was the foundation for much of the equipment being used today. Pavelski Enterprises’ sales grew to over $21 million annually.

After selling the company to Growmark, Pavelski rejoined his brother. John, on the family Farm where he became more involved in growing crops. He also partnered with David Knights, and they grew the original farming operation, Pavelski Farms, into Heartland Farms, turning the original 550 acres into over 18,000 acres, generating more than $50 Million in sales.

During the growth of Heartland Farms, Pavelski consulted on production and storage projects in Scotland, the UK, Poland, and Russia. He also partnered with two other growers to build a 7,000-acre potato farm in Mexico.

Today, Heartland Farms is among the largest Frito Lay growers in the nation.
It received the 2012 National Potato Council Environmental Stewardship Award. “We’re very grateful for this honor,” Pavelski said. “We have a long tradition of farming in our family and our farm has a strong commitment to sustainability. Our motto is ‘farming for the future,’ and we are committed to environmental stewardship because we want our farm to be around for future generations so we can continue to provide food for America and the world.”

A past president of the WPVGA, Pavelski has served on state and national levels in many capacities. He has served on the United States Potato Board and the National Potato Council and was also a director on the National Fertilizer Solutions Association. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Fertilizer and Chemical Association as well as the Wisconsin Agri-Business Council.

Locally, he is a past president of the Village of Amherst Junction, and was chairman of the Amherst Fire Commission. He was a director on the Portage County Business Council and a member of the Portage County EMS Oversight Board. He was a trustee of the Stevens Point Catholic Schools Foundation as well as the Wisconsin Agri-Business Foundation.

Pavelski also donates time and financial support for many projects. Invested and involved in 36 closely held companies, he has recently been referred to as a “one man economic development committee.” Over the last 25 years these companies have created over 2,000 new jobs, nearly all in the Central Wisconsin area.

Pavelski married his wife, Barb, in 1973. They have three children, Michelle, Andria, and Jeremie, and four grandchildren, Samantha, Alexander, Elliot, and Eleanor, with another on the way. The couple reside in Arkdale, Wisconsin, and Naples, Florida. His hobbies include golf, boating and ocean cruising.

Donald George Hamerski

Donald George Hamerski of Plover, was born in Polonia, on January 6, 1939. The son of the late Joseph Dennis Hamerski and Johanna Francis (Kaminski) Hamerski, he attended school in Stevens Point and was a 1957 graduate of P.J. Jacobs High School, in Stevens Point.

Hamerski served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and was called to active duty in 1958 and 1961. After being released from active duty he returned to Wisconsin for the remainder of his military service obligation.

His grandfather, Paul, began the family farming operation in came to Plover in 1889.

According to Don, his grandfather raised “a little bit of everything, cows, potatoes, corn, you name it.” His father, Joe, took over the farm in 1940, and Don formed a partnership with him in 1961. Don took over the farm in 1964, and continued to farm with his son, Jon, and his nephew, Dale O’Brien.

Today, the farm raises over 2,300 acres of potatoes, sweet corn, snap beans, sweet peas and field corn.

Although he attended a one-room school just down the road from the farm as a youngster, Hamersk was not an old-fashioned farmer. He readily embraced change, and was constantly looking to improve his farming operation with the latest technology and equipment.

Hamersk married Mary Piorkowski in 1968, at St. Bronislava Catholic Church in Plover.

As the owner of Hamerski Farms, Inc., he was a longtime member of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association. He was honored to receive the Century Farm Award from The Rural Life Committee of the Diocese of LaCrosse in September, 2013. He also received the Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture Award from the Portage County Business Council in 1987.

Hamersk was a member of St. Bronislava Parish. He served as the Portage County Drainage Commissioner for 27 years, served on the Portage County Planning Zoning Committee, was a board member for Mount Morris Insurance Company, was a member of the Elks Lodge, and a previous Lions Club member.

He passed away on August 9, 2016, and was buried with full military honors. He is survived by his wife, Mary, his children, Jon (Dawn) Hamerski, and Lori (Daniel) Hoerter, and his grandchildren, Trent and Taylor Hamerski, and Ashley, Katie, Gabriel, and Elijah Hoerter. He’s also survived by his sister, Gerry (Larry) Stuczynski.

A loving family man and beloved friend, he was known to many as a very generous contributor to countless charities in Wisconsin and was a regular donor to the annual Spud Bowl at UW-Stevens Point. He enjoyed bowling, was a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, and a great storyteller.

Hamerski never missed an opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face. His most treasured accomplishment was the farm. It not only allowed him to work with and provide for his family, but truly gave him peace and joy.

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