WPVGA Presents Annual Industry Awards
FOR ANTIGO TIMES
In addition to its annual Hall of Fame inductions, the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) presented several other annual industry awards at a banquet held February 6, 2019 in Stevens Point.
Eric Schroeder of Schroeder Brothers Farms, Antigo, was named the WPVGA Volunteer of the Year. Schroeder is a current board member and past President of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association and is a past President of the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association. He currently serves on the WPVGA Chip and Research Committees. He participated in the National Potato Council’s Potato Industry Leadership Institute and was elected by his peers to be the grower leader to return to the PILI the following year. He is also a Wisconsin representative on Potatoes USA and serves on the Executive Committee as well as the Potato Research Advisory Committee.
J.D. Schroeder was named WPVGA Young Grower of the Year. The son of John T. and Judy Schroeder, J.D. works at Schroeder Brothers Farms. He graduated from Antigo High School in 2004, and then attended UW-Madison, graduating in 2008 with a double major in agricultural business management and political science. He received a law degree in 2011 from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. J.D. offers an astute perspective on issues based on his knowledge and experience as a lawyer. He has helped the WPVGA on legal issues and testified at State Senate hearings on a high-capacity well bill, the new certified seed law, the late blight abatement bill, and testified before the State Assembly on the implements of husbandry bill.
He currently serves as a Director on the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association Board, as well as the United Potato Growers of Wisconsin Board. He previously served on the United Potato Growers of America Board, and won WPVGA’s Agri-Communicator Award in 2016. A past-participant in PILI, J.D. serves on the WPVGA Water Task Force, the Governmental Affairs committee, the Spud Pro committee and the Research committee.
The WPVGA Researcher of the Year Award went to University of Wisconsin Extension Specialist Dr. Matt Ruark. An Associate Professor in the UW Deptartment of Soil Science, Dr. Ruark completed his BS and MS degrees at the University of Minnesota, and his Ph.D. at Purdue University. He spent two years as a postdoc at the University of California-Davis before starting at UW in 2008. His Nutrient Cycling and Agroecosystems Laboratory works to improve nitrogen and phosphorus management in potato and processing crop production systems. He serves as faculty advisor to the UW-Discovery Farms program and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, as well as being on the Executive Committee of the Midwest Cover Crops Council. Matt is a base-funded researcher for the WPVGA in fertility management.
The WPVGA Associate Division presented the Associate Division Business Person of the Year Award to Cathy Schommer of Compeer Financial, Baraboo. A Sr. Focused Lending Specialist, Schommer has worked for the Farm Credit system in various capacities over the past 32 years. For the past 15 years, she has worked primarily with potato and vegetable growers, grain producers and some dairies in Adams, Marquette and Columbia counties.
Cathy has served two 4-year terms on the WPVGA Associate Division Board and has volunteered at numerous industry events over the years, including the annual Putt-Tato Open golf outing and the Hancock Field Days. She has also volunteered at several Spudmobile appearances, serving food and helping promote the Wisconsin potato and vegetable industry.
Cathy will tell you she feels blessed in her role at Compeer Financial, collaborating with clients who are some of the hardest-working and honest around. She enjoys helping them work through challenges and opportunities and watching them achieve success.
The Agri-Communicator Award for excellence in communication and dedicated service in presenting a positive message about the agricultural industry was presented to National Potato Council Executive Vice President and CEO John Keeling, who will be retiring in 2019. John has had a transformational impact on the potato industry since he was hired in late 2001, leading efforts to enhance potato exports, boost the potato’s role in nutrition programs and working as a key lobbyist for specialty crop interests in the Farm Bill. His nearly 15 years of legislative and regulatory experience before coming to the NPC served the industry well. He has made the NPC much more effective over the years.
According to current NPC President Larry Alsum, “John has been a charismatic leader for us. He works well with people, he’s connected with our legislators and he knows the right people to get the job done.”
And John truly loves the potato industry. There’s nobody more passionate than John. He wants to know that the industry is going forward and that he’s a part of it even in his retirement. Under John’s watch, the National Potato Council has strived to represent the industry in Washington and to speak with one voice.
Though unable to attend the Banquet, 2018 WPVGA Board President Josh Mattek of J.W. Mattek & Sons, Deerbrook, later presented the President’s Award to his lovely wife, Anita Mattek, for all her love and support.
A special WPVGA Industry Appreciation Award was presented during lunch on Wednesday to Chuck Bolte of AgSource Laboratories, Bonduel. For the past three years, Bolte has worked closely with many Antigo potato growers on water flow and phosphorus monitoring in the Antigo Flats potato and vegetable production area.
Chuck joined the Army Reserves and served 12 years, including a nine-month stint in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. He attended UW Stevens Point and graduated in 1988 with a BS degree in soil science and minors in biology and waters.
He worked for Richland County as a County Conservationist for five years before moving on to Frito-Lay in Rhinelander for a short stint and joining AgSource Laboratories, in 1996, where he’s been employed for the last 23 years. He started as a Soil Sampling Specialist and worked his way to his current position of NMP/GPS Manager of the Agronomic Consulting Services team. He specializes in Nutrient Management Planning for vegetable cropping and dairy farms and writes NMP’s on over 50,000 acres each year.
Chuck was recently certified by the American Society of Agronomy as a Certified Professional Agronomist (CPAg). He currently serves on the Executive Council for the Wisconsin Association of Professional Agronomists (WAPAC) and was named WI CCA of the year in 2016. If you have been to Bass Lake Golf Course in Deerbrook, you likely drove by Chuck’s flower gardens and seen some of his 50-plus different Hostas along Hwy. B.