Feb 16, 2018
WPVGA presents awards to industry leaders

The Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) presented several annual industry awards at a banquet held Feb. 7, in Stevens Point.

WPVGA Executive Director Tamas Houlihan presented the Associate Division Business Person of the Year Award to Sally Suprise of Ansay & Associates, Appleton. Suprise has been in the insurance industry for over 20 years, including the last seven years at Ansay. She has been on the WPVGA Associate Division board of directors for six years, serving as president of the board this past year. Suprise has a Certified Workers Comp Advisor Designation and has received the Authentic Sales Person Class Award.

Suprise then presented the WPVGA Volunteer of the Year Award to Paul Cieslewicz, owner of Sand County Equipment, Bancroft. Cieslewicz, who started Sand County Equipment six years ago, completed ag-related courses at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids and has worked in the agriculture industry for over 30 years. A member of the WPVGA Water Task Force, Paul has also served two separate terms on the Associate Division Board of Directors, as well as on the Portage County Drainage District Board since 2005, including as chairman since 2015.

Chad Malek of Specialty Potatoes & Produce, Rosholt, was named WPVGA Young Grower of the Year. Malek grew up potato farming with his dad on Malek Farms in Rosholt. In 2004, he started on his own by growing a half-acre of fingerling potatoes. Each year the business grew, and by 2007, he was growing 80 acres and decided to make the farm his full-time job. Specialty Potatoes & Produce now grows both organic and non-organic fingerling, red, yellow and russet potatoes. Today, the farm grows over 600 acres of potatoes and 700 acres of rotational crops. In addition to the farm end, Specialty Potatoes & Produce has also started a potato grading facility that packs its own product and packs for other organic potato growers in the area. Malek now employs nearly 30 employees throughout the year. He lives in Rosholt with his wife, Jenny, and three children, Erin, Adam and Jacob.

The WPVGA Researcher of the Year Award went to U.S. Department of Agriculture-ARS (Agricultural Research Service) and University of Wisconsin (UW) Geneticist Shelley Jansky. A professor in the UW Department of Horticulture, Jansky’s research program focuses on identifying useful genes in wild potato relatives and putting them in cultivated potato lines so breeders can use them for variety development. In recent years, she has developed an initiative to produce inbred lines in potato, with the goal of creating hybrid cultivars. Shelley received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at UW-Stevens Point and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison. She is currently president of the Potato Association of America.

2017 WPVGA President Eric Schroeder of Schroeder Bros. Farms, Inc., Antigo, presented the President’s Award to his mother, Gina Schroeder, in grateful appreciation for a lifetime of support, guidance, inspiration and love.

The Agri-Communicator Award for excellence in communication and dedicated service in presenting a positive message about the agriculture industry was presented to Andy Wallendal, owner and consultant for Wallendal Supply, Inc., Grand Marsh. Under Andy’s leadership, Wallendal Supply won the National Potato Council’s Environmental Stewardship award. He has worked hard on complex issues and laws such as the Total Maximum Daily Load for the Wisconsin River and the Agricultural Producer Security Law. He also served on the Producer Security Council.

Houlihan also presented a special Industry Appreciation Award to his WPVGA Executive Assistant Julie Braun, who also serves as administrative coordinator for the Wisconsin Mint Board, Inc. and the Wisconsin Muck Farmers Association. She completed courses at Northcentral Technical College in accounting and website development, and previously worked at the Wausau Insurance Company. Julie received an Industry Appreciation Award from the WPVGA Associate Division in 2012 and the 2013 WPVGA President’s Award.

A second Industry Appreciation Award was presented to RPE Senior Agronomist Mike Copas for sharing valuable research and his contributions to the Wisconsin potato and vegetable industry.

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