A Wisconsin producer is among three finalists for the prestigious Top Producer of the Year award at the 2018 Top Producer Seminar slated for Jan. 23-26 in Chicago.

Sponsored by Bayer and Case IH, the Top Producer of the Year contest is in its 19th year and represents the best in the business of farming.

Finalists include: 

  • Jeremie Pavelski serves as president of Heartland Farms, a fifth-generation operation in Hancock, Wis. The company produces chipping and fresh-market potatoes, sweet corn, canning peas, green beans and soybeans. The Heartland team includes 120 full-time and 150 part-time employees.
  • Zach Bailey, along with his brothers Cole and Mason, and father, Darren, operate Bailey Family Farms in Iola, Ill. The third-generation operation employs 15 full-time and five part-time team members and produces soybeans, corn and wheat.
  • Frank Howey oversees Frank Howey Family Farms, a diversified farm business including corn, wheat and soybean production, a cattle operation, timber production, as well as rental property and a seed business in Monroe, N.C. He and his wife, Alison, employ 20 full-time team members.

Heartland Farms

Heartland Farms is a fifth-generation family business that grows potatoes, sweet corn, canning peas and green beans on about 24,000 irrigated acres spread across five counties in central Wisconsin.

Heartland Farms’ roots trace back to 1873 when Jeremie Pavelski’s great-great grandfather, August Pavelski, started with 80 acres near Amherst Junction in Portage County.

The farm incorporated as A.M. Pavelski & Sons Inc. in 1974. Heartland Farms Inc. was formed in 1990 when Richard Pavelski and Dave Knights partnered. In the years since, Knights has helped steward Heartland Farms through a more than ten-fold increase in acreage.

As one of the nation’s premier suppliers of chipping potatoes, Heartland Farms has storage facilities with the capacity for more than a one-half billion pounds of potatoes.

The annual award, given by Top Producer magazine, recognizes producers whose excellence in business can teach industry peers about value-added ventures, succession plans, overcoming adversity and more.


The winner will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 24 during the annual Top Producer of the Year banquet at the 2018 Top Producer Seminar in Chicago.

Judging criteria includes entrepreneurial originality (50%); financial and business progress (30%); and industry or community leadership (20%).

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