Quality Seed: The Backbone of the Industry

Ron Mach of Antigo, Wis.

Published in the August 2012 Issue Published online: Aug 08, 2012
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Ron Mach farms with his brother Ken near Antigo, Wis., which is also their hometown. Mach is the President and Farm Manager of Mach's Sunny Acres, Inc., producing Red LaSoda, Atlantics and Superiors for seed. For 2012, Accumulator, a new Wisconsin chip variety, was also planted to supply the demand and seed needs of four growers.

Mach is a very enthusiastic Wisconsin seed grower, and his peers are fortunate to have him representing them. Serving as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), and as a member on the Wisconsin Seed Potatoes Improvement Association, Mach is also serving his second term as a United States Potato Board (USPB) member, and represents Wisconsin on this organization's Administrative Committee, serving on the International Marketing Committee.

Mach is also a member of the USPB Seed Task Force and has participated on USPB Seed Symposiums and Reverse Trade Missions (RTMs), hosting foreign seed buyers and importers as they learn about the quality and availability of U.S. seed potatoes for their countries.

"Last year's USPB Seed Symposium and RTM were great events," he says. "We hosted a group of buyers and importers from Brazil in Wisconsin. We took them to our state's seed farm, and they were very impressed. What has the USPB done for our industry? They bring important people to our industry and help us develop new markets and opportunities."

Mach acknowledges there are challenges with meeting the regulations and import protocols of different governments because of different phytosanitary requirements, and the challenge of producing the particular varieties their customers demand. Still, as a Wisconsin seed grower, he has had some success in exporting to foreign markets, despite the challenges of logistics and transportation. Some of his Red LaSoda crop was grown out in New Brunswick, Canada, and made its way to Cuba. This was reportedly some of the best quality ever introduced of this variety and helped promote interest for U.S. seed in this country.

The need for quality in the potato industry is inescapable, and as a seed grower, Mach is tenacious in its pursuit. "My motto is: don't get bigger, get better," he says. "The American Way has been to produce more and more in the attempt to become more successful. Oversupply in all industries creates excess that can later become everybody's problem. Right now, the demand on our farm exceeds our supply. It's been this way for a few years, and as a seed grower, this has been a good problem to have.

"Quality seed is the backbone of the potato industry. I must produce the healthiest, disease-free seed with superb quality, vigor and productivity. Ultimately, I must consistently provide a good customer experience. The only way my buyers can deliver the quality their customers and the market recognizes, knows and expects is for our seed to exhibit the highest standard of quality."

As a seed grower, Mach also recognizes providing consistent quality in his seed demands maintaining strong relations with his potato growing customers. He tries to visit with most of his customers each year during the growing season. He says if there are any problems or issues, handling these face-to-face are best. People respect and appreciate this.

Mach was named the National Potato Council (NPC) Seed Grower of the Year at the Potato Expo held January 4-6, 2012, in Orlando, Fla. The award was presented by then NPC President Justin Dagen, who said the award is in recognition for significant contributions and dedicated service to the potato industry. Dagen described Mach as a man who has simple, traditional values.

"Ron Mach truly loves farming," Dagen says. "He says it's a wonderful way of life. He also loves to visit with growers and share information. And he firmly believes you have to put your time in and work hard if you want to succeed."

Mach has served previous terms on both the WPVGA and the USPB. During his previous term as a USPB board member, he traveled to U.S. seed trials in Columbia, Venezuela and Honduras. As a grower representative of the U.S. potato industry, he also traveled to South Korea and gave a presentation to a group of Korean government and market representatives about how irrigation in the United States helps improve food production.

"We did not go into center pivots on our farm until the late 1980s. We used to only irrigate our potato crops," Mach said. "Today, to make money on all of our crops, everything is irrigated 100 percent. The input costs on not just our potatoes, but also our rotation crops, are so great, we must ensure good crops are produced everywhere on our farm, and this requires ample, consistent moisture."

In addition to foundation and certified seed potatoes, Mach produces field corn, oats, alfalfa, soybeans and peas. Mach's Sunny Acres is very diversified, and Mach says this is to improve and maintain soil quality.

"You must take care of the soil in order for it to give back to you," he says.

With over 38 years of experience growing certified seed potatoes, Mach is well respected by his peers and is known for producing quality crops. He is a strong advocate and ambassador of Wisconsin agriculture, and exemplifies leadership in the potato industry. In a recent grower profile article in the The Badger Common'Tater, Mach explains the need to be involved in the industry, saying, "Information is key. The more accurate information you gather, the better decisions you can make. Serving on boards keeps you informed on crop conditions, market development, legislative issues, research development and so on. I also love visiting with other growers and enjoy exchanging information. The broader your knowledge base, the better crops you can produce. Good seed does not cost, it pays."

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