If you have frozen or canned vegetables in your freezer or pantry, chances are those vegetables were grown in Wisconsin. The state is a prime growing region for major vegetable crops used for canning and freezing, and is second only to California in the production of the primary processing vegetable crops.
“Typically, Wisconsin’s climate is not too hot or too cold, nor too wet or too dry. When you are picking up corn, green beans, peas, carrots or beets at your favorite retailer, there is a strong probability they were grown here in Wisconsin,” says Todd Eucke, marketing manager for Lakeside Foods Inc. in Manitowoc.
Planting Powerful Partnerships
The food processing sector supports more than 1,000 Wisconsin producers during the busy harvest season. Processors give producers like Andrew Wallendal, owner of Wallendal Supply Inc. in Grand Marsh, another market outlet for their crops. Wallendal is a second-generation farmer who grows potatoes, sweet corn, peas, lima and kidney beans, and cabbage. Most of his produce is contracted to processors.
According to Wallendal, taking part in the supply chain helps farmers diversify, providing them greater economic stability.
“New technologies, such as GPS guidance, also help increase productivity,” he says.
Rooted in Relationships
Food processors have a tremendous impact on farmers’ bottom lines. They give farmers options in the marketplace and ability to spread out risk to receive the maximum return on their investment.
“Specialty vegetable crops like peas, green beans, beets and sweet corn provide diversity to the producers that grow these crops for our facilities. This can help them manage risk from a financial standpoint and also helps to spread the workload, as these crops are typically planted and harvested at different times than typical row crops like corn and soybeans,” says a Seneca Foods Corporation spokesperson.
Seneca Foods operates nine plants in Wisconsin to produce its canned goods. The vast majority of the crops processed by Seneca in the state are grown within 50 to 75 miles of the company’s facilities.
Likewise, Manitowoc-based Lakeside Foods, in business for 130 years, relies heavily on local growers. Lakeside Foods started with one small pea canning facility and now has 12 plants in operation producing canned and frozen vegetables.
“The backbone of our company is our grower base. We have some growers that go back four generations,” Eucke says. “With processed vegetables, we have a great program for our growers which means very little cash outlay on their end.”
The close relationship between Wisconsin food processors and growers also has advantages for consumers.
“Canned and frozen vegetables are harvested at the most optimum time,” says the Seneca Foods spokesperson. “They make their way from the field to canning or freezing within a matter of hours, and are nutritionally equivalent to their fresh alternatives – especially those fresh items that may have been harvested hundreds or even thousands of miles away and subject to days, if not weeks, in storage before reaching a consumer’s home.”
Wisconsin’s central location in the nation helps producers serve markets in the Midwest and keep costs low in a highly competitive market.
“Canned and frozen alternatives provide a value proposition to those who may not always have other forms available or who cannot afford them. Canned and frozen vegetables are sold in the supermarket at a cost today that is not much different than it was 20 years ago and help families stretch their grocery budgets,” says the Seneca Foods spokesperson.