WPVG unleashes new marketing initiatives to promote Wisconsin potatoes
The Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association represents growers on governmental affairs and maintains a good relationship with the research team at UW-Madison as well as legislators to ensure that what is happening on a state level is benefitting growers and agriculture as a whole.
“WPVGA also stays in communication with national organizations like Potatoes USA and the National Potato Council regarding activity across the country that has an impact on business in Wisconsin and the Midwest,” said Dana Rady, director of promotion, communication and consumer education for the WPVG.
Then of course, there’s a host of marketing initiatives designed to help Wisconsin growers.
For instance, the WPVG is working with a well-known comedian in the state to produce a video and some short video bytes, all devoted to Wisconsin potatoes. The videos will feature information about the health benefits potatoes naturally provide along with the importance of buying local, to name a couple examples. The videos should be released right as the new 2021 crop hits the market.
“We’re also continuing our partnership with the grilling duo, Mad Dog and Merrill,” Rady said. “An episode devoted to Wisconsin potatoes will air after filming takes place in September. We are also partnering with Gabe Sommers Racing for the first time.”
Gabe Sommers is a local race car driver who has a love of potatoes as well as the Wisconsin potato industry.
“We are putting up banners at races, participating in autograph sessions and will be sponsoring Wi-Fi for campers at the Oktoberfest race in La Crosse, WI, among other things,” Rady said. “It’s been a great partnership that really showcases how Wisconsin potatoes power performance and the importance potatoes play in our local economy.”
Additionally, the WPVG will continue to take the Spudmobile to as many events as possible and within the guidelines of local health officials. It is also advertising via a billboard on Hwy 39/51 and on TV during the Green Bay Packers upcoming season.
On average, Wisconsin plants 63,000 acres of potatoes, making it the third-largest potato-producing state and the largest producer east of the Mississippi.
The 2021 crop saw a more advantageous growing season compared to previous years. However, although the crop was planted about 7-10 days earlier than normal, it didn’t end up being an early crop.
“Growers are nicely getting in the full swing of harvest in the southern part of the state following some rain that left certain areas too saturated for the harvest season to get off the ground,” Rady said. “But overall, the crop looks to be a good quality with average yields and size.”
She noted sales on yellows and specialties have been steadily increasing in the last several years. Reds, on the other hand, have been seeing a slight decline in sales, and it hasn’t been the direct result of one specific moment.
“Fresh Russets have also seen slower markets, more so following the pandemic as additional businesses open up,” Rady said. “But the future remains bright for the Wisconsin potato industry: we sell every potato we grow every year.”
The WPVG would like to see retailers feature or provide information about the grower from whom they purchased the potatoes.
“More people are asking where their food comes from and how it’s produced,” Rady said. “What better way to do that than provide the best field-to-fork experience and showcase the farmer stories right at the time of purchase? It brings a new level of transparency to consumers and is also a great way to explain and show why consumers should focus on buying local.”
There are some challenges in the state.
“Issues of water quantity and water quality are at the top of the list for growers in Wisconsin,” said Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the WPVG. “We have a very environmentally-friendly state with a bountiful water supply, but the growers know that water is our most precious resource, and we must do everything we can to conserve water and keep it clean for future generations.”
This year, WPVGA is planning to launch a microsite dedicated to water issues.
“The site will highlight best practices and positive steps the industry is taking with regard to water issues,” Houlihan said. “The WPVGA was awarded a Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant in 2021 and we will include some information about that as well as all the good work being done by the WPVGA’s Water Task Force. We have funded multiple research projects related to water quality and provided funding for the latest technology to help growers with their irrigation scheduling systems.”