Feb 15, 2023
WPVGA inducts new hall of fame member, recognizes contributors

The Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) inducted a new member into its hall of fame and recognized several other industry contributors with awards at its annual banquet, held Feb. 8 in Stevens Point.

Randy Van Haren, a pest management specialist who established Pest Pros of Plainfield in 1984, is the newest member of the WPVGA Hall of Fame, which honors lifetime achievement in the development of the state’s potato industry.

Born in Spokane, Washington, Van Haren moved with his family to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1955. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received a bachelor’s degree in natural science in 1979 and a master’s of entomology in 1984.

Van Haren worked as a research specialist in the UW-Madison Department of Horticulture from 1980-1984, including working on the pilot Vegetable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) initiative and Mint IPM project.

With Pest Pros, a crop consulting and plant disease diagnostic lab, Van Haren has worked with many potato and vegetable growers during the last 39 years.

In 2012, Randy sold the company to Wisconsin River Co-op, which merged in April of 2013 with Farmers’ Co-op Supply & Shipping Association of West Salem to form Allied Cooperative.

Van Haren was also the owner-operator of Willow Creek Aquaculture, a producer of feed-trained yellow perch fingerlings, for 10 years in the late 1990s to the early 2000s.

He has served as president and secretary of the Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants and the newsletter editor for the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants. He also served on the WPVGA Associate Division Board of Directors, including a term as secretary. He is a past president and current secretary of the Plainfield Lions Club and has been a member since 1986. He is also a lifetime member and alumni of the Future Farmers of America in Plainfield.

Van Haren received a WPVGA Industry Appreciation Award in 1994 in response to his outstanding service during a late blight epidemic. He also received the Melvin Jones Fellowship in 2021, a public service award from the Lions Club International recognizing a tremendous contribution to humanity.

Other awards presented at the banquet were:

  • The WPVGA Associate Division Business Person of the Year Award was presented to Julie Cartwright, sales agronomist for Jay-Mar Inc., of Plover. For more than seven years, Cartwright has been a trusted resource for growers in the Central Sands and throughout Wisconsin’s agricultural production areas. She completed her last year on the WPVGA Associate Division Board in 2023, having served as president in her final term.
  • Douglas Posthuma of Alsum Farms & Produce in Friesland was named the WPVGA Volunteer of the Year. The procurement and grower relations manager at Alsum Farms & Produce, Posthuma attended the 2021 Potato Industry Leadership Institute and served as a PILI grower leader in 2022. He has participated in the National Potato Council’s Washington, D.C. Fly-In where he met with legislators on Capitol Hill to inform congressional leaders of the issues impacting the potato industry and is a 2019 graduate of the WPVGA Member Development Program.
  • The WPVGA Young Grower of the Year Award went to Nicola Carey of Wysocki Produce Farm in Bancroft. Carey grew up cutting seed, preparing potato storages, collecting yield samples, and managing the storage crop with her dad. During college, she worked in the summer on small-plot research trials, which introduced her to using statistics within agriculture and encouraged her to specialize in agricultural economics. She returned to work in the family business seven years ago.
  • The WPVGA Researcher of the Year Award was presented to Dr. James Busse. His nomination came with supporting letters of recommendation from university professors as well as industry stakeholders from Wisconsin and Idaho. Busse is a research technician in Dr. Paul Bethke’s program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Vegetable Crops Research Unit on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus who has been involved with countless potato research projects in his 20-plus years of work and service. He has authored and co-authored 18 peer-reviewed scientific publications. He is currently the secretary for the Potato Association of America – physiology section.
  • Jordan Lamb received the Agri-Communicator Award for excellence in communication and outstanding service to the potato and vegetable industry. A principal and contract lobbyist with The Welch Group public affairs firm, in Madison, Lamb has been working on behalf of agriculture for 22 years, representing a diverse set of clients before the Wisconsin legislature and state agencies. A Madison native, Lamb graduated from the UW-Madison Law School. She spent over 20 years in private law practice serving government relations clients and developing a strong legal background in environmental and administrative law.
  • 2022 WPVGA Board President Alex Okray of Okray Family Farms in Plover presented the President’s Award to his wife, Anna Okray, for her faithful support, guidance, and love.
  • A special Industry Appreciation Award went to WPVGA Executive Assistant Julie Braun, who is celebrating 25 years of service in 2023. She also serves as administrative coordinator for Wisconsin Mint Board, Inc. and the Wisconsin Muck Farmers Association.

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