Opportunities abound for community outreach at Neumiller Farms, thanks in part to the efforts of Katie Neumiller-Floming. She works on her family’s farm as a transportation manager, and serves as the sole United States Potato Board (USPB) Board member from the state of Illinois.
I think it is very important to stay grounded and take care of others,” Neumiller-Floming said. “I do not look at donating as a chore or an extra job. There are many ways we can all help make our communities better.
“If I can help by eliminating hunger, I consider myself lucky. I work with many churches, schools and organizations helping make wonderful things happen within our community and others. Hunger is a real problem that many people are not aware of. I’m always trying to think of new ways to help with the resources I have available.”
Neumiller-Floming is a third-generation potato grower on her family’s five farms across northwest and central Illinois.
“My family has grown potatoes for a long time,” she said. “Growing up, I spent my summers and weekends working on the farm. In college (Western Illinois University) I graduated with a bachelor of science in agribusiness, and started working full-time in May of 2006.
Her great grandfather grew potatoes in Russia, and then in Colorado. Neumiller-Floming said that her paternal grandfather, Fred Neumiller, grew potatoes in southeastern Wisconsin and northwest Illinois. Today, Floming and her husband, Matt Floming, her parents, Tom and Wallene Neumiller, aunt Carrie Henderson, uncle Ron Neumiller and cousin Scott Neumiller are all involved on the family farm.
Neumiller Farms has been growing potatoes since the 1950s. Red, chip-stock, russets and yellow varieties are grown for chip and food processing, along with some table-stock. Green beans, sweet corn, field corn, seed corn and soybeans are grown in rotation.
“There are a handful of potato farmers in Illinois, and we consider them all friends,” she said. “All of our farms are along the Mississippi River or Illinois River. There are a few pockets of sand in Illinois, and that’s where we try to be.”
Located in Illinois, they are able to bridge the gap from fresh-crop chips in Missouri until Wisconsin starts its harvest.
“We also take pride in being one phone call away, so customers can have direct communication with us,” Neumiller-Floming said. “We keep business simple and direct. With most orders being made on computers, one can appreciate a direct phone call. We try to be in constant contact with our customers. We have had some customers for over 60 years. We have also made contracts with just a handshake.”
One of the biggest challenges at Neumiller Farms is conserving water for the future while keeping crops in top form. The farm depends on many irrigation systems, and they work hard to stay current with new technologies. They use low-pressure drip nozzles, variable-rate irrigation systems, remote monitoring and natural gas for some of their irrigation pumps.
Potatoes are both shipped and stored.
“From late June to mid-October, we field run our production to both chippers and processing customers,” she said.
Neumiller-Floming said that they also store table-stock from October to mid-June, and are a year-round supplier with their own fleet of trucks for shipping most of our potatoes.
“Right now, I feel like transportation is a big factor,” she said. “If you have trucks, then you can get orders. It’s getting harder for trucks to meet (Department of Transportation) standards. With the trend going towards electronic logs, and not much lead time in orders, everything needs to work together. We can quickly respond to orders and get them filled.”
Neubiller-Floming has been instrumental in establishing a focus on sustainability. She and her family interact in their communities with socially responsive activities. A few of the projects Neumiller Farms participates in are food bank donations, establishing wildlife habitat and hosting agriculture exchange students.
“We are active with local schools in hosting career days and field trips,” she said. “I feel it is important for the next generation to see and understand where their food comes from. So many people are unaware of how basic and uncomplicated our potato products are. By educating the next generation, I feel it gives a positive outlook on agriculture.”
Neumiller Farms also partners with other organizations to fight hunger. They donate crops to many clubs, who in turn distribute these to people in need. They will drop off semi loads of potatoes to area food banks. Many schools will make field trips to glean potatoes from their fields, which are then donated. Some of their customers offer canned goods sales. On these occasions, the Neumillers stock up to help ensure local food pantries are well supplied.
Neumiller-Floming joined USPB in March 2014, and is completing her second year. She is the first USPB member in many years from Illinois, which had previously been a proxy state represented by Wisconsin.
In 2015, she was elected by the USPB north central caucus to the board’s administrative committee. She now serves on the industry communications and policy committee.
“I wanted to be involved with spreading positive information on potatoes,” she said. “There have been studies about potatoes, showing them in a negative way. I know that is not the truth, and want to get the message out there. Also, Illinois is not known for its potato community, and I felt like I could represent the state well.”
Neumiller-Floming said that USPB is an organization that not only helps the potato industry but serves consumers.
“The USPB does many things to help both sides,” she said. “As a farmer, I like seeing new programs for marketing potatoes and the studies the USPB conducts. For consumers, they have a great website that’s easy to navigate. Consumers can easily get potato nutrition information, recipes and fun potato facts.”