What started out as a truck and tire business turned into one of the largest potato and vegetable operations in the state of Wisconsin.
This unusual turn of events is the story of Mortenson Bros. Farms, Inc., a 14,000-acre potato and vegetable farm headquartered in Plainfield, Wisconsin.
Brothers Gary (“Jack”) and James (“Frog”) Mortenson were in the trucking and tire business in Antigo, Wisconsin – – Mortenson Brothers Trucking and Southside Tire. They had hauled potatoes for a farm that could not pay them back, so they took on ownership of part of the crop. Jack left Antigo that summer to watch over their new potato investment.
That was in 1968 and in 1973, Jack and James formed Mortenson Bros. Farms, Inc. The brothers farmed together until James died in 1980. Jack sold the farm and went back to Antigo for two years to take care of family affairs. In 1983, Jack returned to the farm. The operation continued to grow from its unintentional start, adding acreage and additional crops.
When Jack’s son, Jim graduated from Antigo High School in 1991, he started farming with his father full time. Jack and his wife, Evelyn, helped Jim start a small farm of his own in 1997 called Mortenson Produce, LLC.
Jack and his son, Jim, continued to farm together until the spring of 2004 when Jack died. His death occurred just before the planting season, and it was very difficult for Jim to pull everything together in time to get all the crops planted, but according to Jim, “somehow it all fell into place.” Jim says he knew he needed help, so he hired older managers and everything clicked. At that time the farm had just over 5,000 acres of potatoes and vegetables.
Jim bought out his mother’s interest in the farm in 2005. The farm continued to grow, adding on just over 7,000 more acres along with more managers and employees. The farm has also continued to diversify, planting more specialty crops such as beets and carrots. Mortenson Bros. Farms, Inc. also does custom work for other operations and has invested in the revamping of old facilities, renting them out for purposes other than potatoes. The farm now raises crops in Adams, Portage, Marquette and Waushara counties.
“Mortenson Bros. Farms’ mission is to supply raw product and assist customers with their needs in any situation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This commitment of urgency and a can-do attitude is what the company’s founder lived by and is instilled in today’s ownership and staff. This is a promise we make to every customer.”
Looking to the Future
In the spring of 2010, ground was broken for a state-of-the-art storage and wash facility. The initial 80,000 square foot building was designed to allow for considerable growth. Currently, an additional 50,688 square feet is being built.
The storage portion of the wash plant can hold 560,000 cwt of potatoes. The washing and loading area is 360’ x 64’. It is very employee-friendly and allows MBF to do a better job of storing and processing.
We can store over 1.6 million hundred weight of potatoes in total; and we can keep 800,000 cwt in modern, long-term storage.