Wis. Potato and Vegetable Growers Association: Pairing two Wisconsin icons — Harleys and potatoes

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Michelle Rothmeyer

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WPVGA Marketing Campaign Helps Build an Important Agri-sector of Wisconsin’s Economy

Antigo, WI — August 4, 2009 — “Today’s consumers want to ‘know their farmer’ — they want to know where their food is coming from. So do produce buyers,” notes Tim Feit, Director of Promotions and Consumer Education for the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA). “Buyers feel a responsibility to their customers — they want to provide high quality products.” To that end, since 2002, WPVGA has launched annual nine-month direct-mail sweepstakes campaigns designed to better inform produce buyers about the advantages of purchasing from Wisconsin potato shippers. At the end of each campaign, one lucky produce buyer is awarded the grand prize — a custom-painted Harley-Davidson Sportster 883.

The winner of the new Harley-Davidson “Spudster” is Ronald “Don” Parsons from Associated Grocers-South, Inc., located in Birmingham, Alabama. “I thought someone was playing a joke on me when I was told I won. I’ve never won anything in my life. It’s very unusual to get something every month from a produce supplier so I looked forward to registering each month, hoping to win the Spudster. I even sat on the Harley the WPVGA had at the Produce Marketing Association show.” Parsons concludes, “Now, my Harley is drawing a crowd — people are always stopping by to look at it.”

Parsons is a customer of Okray Family Farms, a ninety-year-old family-owned business noted as an American Vegetable Grower Top 100 Grower. Located in Plover, Wisconsin, Okray farm harvests over 2,200 acres of potatoes, including Healthy Grown™ potatoes, annually.

The Sportster was purchased from Doc’s Harley-Davidson in Bonduel, Wisconsin, and “transformed” into the “Spudster” with a custom paint job — by Sam Fonte, of Paint N Art in Wittenberg, Wisconsin — featuring the new campaign signature Potatoes Goodness Unearthed developed by the United States Potato Board. Fonte, who owns three Harleys and was raised on a Wisconsin farm, thinks pairing Wisconsin potatoes and Harleys is “perfect. Harley-Davidson is over a century old and potatoes have been on the table since day one in this state. They’re both American — and Wisconsin — icons.”

“The campaign has been a success year after year,” notes Feit. “It’s a great way for us to stay in front of our buyers across the nation and promote the unique benefits of Wisconsin potatoes. One of the benefits that is top-of-mind today,” continues Feit, “is the central location of Wisconsin. Not only do we offer glacial soils, diverse high quality potatoes, efficient growing and shipping practices, Healthy Grown™ potatoes, and eco-friendly packaging, but our location also means less food miles for a good portion of the United States. Less food miles matter to today’s consumers because it’s beneficial to our planet.”

Adds Feit, “The campaign helps us build relationships with produce buyers throughout the nation. That’s critical not only to our WPVGA members, but building a national network of buyers plays an important role in supporting the Wisconsin economy.” Ranked third in the nation for potato production, in 2008 Wisconsin potatoes generated over $293,000,000 in product dollars for farmers and shippers, generated $51.5 billion in economic activity via agribusiness, and provided jobs for 420,000 people. Despite the current economic turbulence, employment rates in the potato industry remain level.

“Our industry remains successful because our growers are committed to utilizing research and technologies that improve efficiencies and product quality. And we’re seeing growing interest in our Healthy Grown™ brand because these potatoes are grown with greatly reduced levels of pesticides. Certified by a third party, the farmers are held to stringent sustainable farming practices that protect the farmlands and surrounding lands, and the farming practices use integrated pest management techniques. Utilizing sweepstakes campaigns such as this helps us grow a healthy Wisconsin agribusiness.”

The 2009 Sportster, purchased from Wausau Harley-Davidson, is currently receiving its custom paint scheme and will make its debut at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit Show in Anaheim, California, October 2 – 5, 2009.

About Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA)

Established in 1948, the WPVGA is headquartered in Antigo, Wisconsin. WPVGA provides grower education, government support, environmentally sound research and consumer education for 150 grower organizations across the state. WPVGA is responsible for expanding the Wisconsin potato markets through advertising, promotion and research. WPVGA also supports the Wisconsin Healthy Grown™ initiative — reduced-pesticide, integrated pest management, sustainable farming practices overseen by Protected Harvest, an independent oversight organization. http://www.wisconsinpotatoes.com.