Sweet corn pours in at Seneca Foods

Gloria Hafemeister


Harvest season is in full swing throughout the state for crops for livestock, grain for market and vegetables to feed a hungry world. The Mayville area is no exception with truckloads of freshly harvested sweet corn pouring into Seneca Foods every day.

Founded in 1949, Seneca Foods Corporation is an independent, publicly traded, food processing company.

Plant Manager Rod Billington described the vertically integrated company that provides seed for farmers who raise vegetable crops for processing.

“We provide the seed, and a big piece of what we do is scheduling the whole process. We must plant so it comes in at the pace we are able to harvest and preserve it.”

Dependent on farmers

“The Mayville plant has about 100 farms supplying the plant each processing season," Billington added, "with quite a few being third- or fourth-generation family farms.

“The average distance from the field to the plant is 35 miles, and the average time from harvest to the finished product is five hours.”

Peas and corn come from about 10,000 acres of land. The company practices integrated pest management together with the growers. A special software information program, Estend-AG, helps the company enhance their agricultural management, track pesticide usage, provide planting details, report point of origin and map GPS locations for all fields in the area.

With care of the environment and sustainability such a big concern among consumers worldwide, Seneca has a stated policy that it adheres to: “We believe in farming and making great products in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way ... we are constantly developing and implementing new systems and procedures that not only keep us in compliance with ever-changing regulations but also reflect our dedication to preserving a healthy environment.”

The company’s written policy also covers practices regarding water usage, energy and soil management, including responsible integrated pest management.

A little history

The Mayville facility opened as a canning company in 1907. In 1982, Joan of Arc purchased the facility and built a new processing building and warehouse. In 1985, Pillsbury/Green Giant purchased the processing plant, and in 1995, Seneca Foods purchased the processing facilities.

At the Mayville plant, over 5.2 million cases of peas and corn are processed each year on five processing lines. There are 54 full-time employees and 210 seasonal employees during the processing season.

Host for Alice finals

Earlier this year, Seneca hosted one of many agricultural tours for finalists in the Alice in Dairyland contest. The tours illustrated the diversity of agriculture in Dodge County, where the finals were hosted.

One of the Alice finalists, Jenna Braun, is employed at the company as a field representative.

“I was able to take the time off this week to prepare for the competition because the pea season does not actually begin until the next week or so," she said.

Once the harvesting season began, however, there is no rest for employees who are involved in the business.

Sweet corn harvest is in full swing and production has been good with near-ideal conditions in southeastern Wisconsin near the Mayville Seneca Foods plant.