Feb 14, 2022WPVGA inducts Paul Miller into hall of fame
The Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) inducted Paul Miller into its hall of fame during the annual WPVGA banquet held in Stevens Point Feb. 9.
Miller formed Miller Farms Inc. in Hancock in 1990, an 1,100-acre irrigated potato and vegetable operation, after acquiring the assets of Badger Growers, a company he had worked for since 1967. Prior to that, Miller had an interrupted stint at Green Giant that began while still in high school.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Hancock, Wisconsin, and the surrounding farmland was the largest bean production area for Green Giant. Many high school and college students worked summers at the Green Giant production plant as novice mechanics. Paul Miller was no different.
When Miller graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, in 1965, he went back to work for Green Giant in his hometown of Beaver Dam. Miller grew up on the family farm in Beaver Dam, which was started by his great-great-grandparents in the 1850s, in Beaver Dam.
Soon after, Miller moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, working for Green Giant as a field man in the production areas there and in the great state of Oklahoma.
In 1967, Miller decided to leave Green Giant and become the farm manager for Badger Growers, a 1,000-acre green bean and sweet corn operation located in Hancock. In addition to raising snap beans and sweet corn, Miller grew potatoes for American Potato (which later became Basic American Foods).
“Then I moved to Hancock,” he said. “(I) worked at what was called Foster Farm at the time. That’s a mile straight west of where I am now.”
In 1990, he and his two children bought all the assets of Badger Growers and formed Paul Miller Farms, Inc., an 1,100-acre irrigated potato and vegetable operation.
Now, some 70 years after plowing the family farm fields in Beaver Dam at the tender age of 8, Miller still farming. As president of the farming operation, Miller works with his son, Todd, daughter, Michelle, and grandsons, Jordan and Ian, raising 2,800 acres of vegetables, including potatoes, sweet corn, snap beans and peas, and growing 525 acres of carrots for Bird’s Eye Foods and Del Monte.
The farm has continued to grow over the years. Today, including rented land, the Millers farm 2,800 acres of potatoes and vegetables in Waushara County, all under irrigation. In addition to processing vegetable production, Gramma Miller’s Farm Market is open from May 1 through Oct. 31, selling fresh produce in season, flowers, canned goods, meats, honey, maple syrup and locally grown and produced wines. A three-acre field is dedicated to specialty crops for the farm market, such as tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, melons, gourds and Indian corn.
Miller is the long-time chairman of the township of Hancock, a past-president of the Hancock Lion’s Club and the chairman of the Hancock Cemetery Association. For 54 years, he was a WIAA boys and girls basketball referee, and is a proud supporter of Ice Hawks hockey, having had a grandson on the team. He is a member and supporter of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Plainfield and a major contributor to the Waushara County Food Bank for many years.
Paul was named the Waushara County Citizen of the Year in 2010. He was honored with the Beaver Dam High School Wall of Fame in 2007 and received an Honorary State FFA Degree in 2003.
His family includes longtime friend, Linda, Paul’s son, Todd, daughters Michelle and Jennifer, grandchildren, Ian, Jordan, Makenzie, Austin, Raiven and Jaiya, and four great-grandchildren, Blake, Joslyn, Sutton and Allie Jo.
“My kids and their kids have worked together since they were very small to help build this operation into the successful organization that it is today,” Miller said. “While sometimes challenging, there is nothing more rewarding and bonding for a family than knowing that everyone’s efforts have contributed significantly.
“There have been times when being a potato and vegetable grower has been challenging,” Paul admits. “I had neighbors in the area when we started growing for American Potato, and nine of us went in together, forming sort of a coop. It was like old-time farming when they thrashed grain. When it was time for potato harvest, five of us had trucks and there were two potato harvesters, and we’d go from farm to farm, neighbor to neighbor, harvesting potatoes. That’s where it started.”
“It’s a major honor, obviously, to be named a WPVGA Hall of Fame member after all these years,” Paul said.
The Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) Hall of Fame honors lifetime achievement in the development of the state’s potato industry. It is the intention of the WPVGA to continue to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the potato industry in Wisconsin by making annual Hall of Fame inductions.
Top photo: Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association