50 for 50: Jerry Bushman

Published online: May 04, 2021 50 for 50, Grower of the Month
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Throughout 2021, as part of Potato Grower’s celebration of our 50th year in publication, we will be honoring in our pages and on our website 50 of the potato industry’s most innovative and influential individuals, companies and organizations over the past half-century. This “50 for 50” series will include researchers, salesmen, packers, processors and, of course, plenty of potato growers. A lot of them will be names you’ve heard before. To some, you’ll get a fresh introduction. Regardless, each has had an outsize impact on the U.S. potato industry, and each deserves our thanks and recognition. This article appears in the May 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

Jerry Bushman began his career in the potato industry in September 1961, working for his father, John, and his uncle, Harry, at Bushman Brothers in Rosholt, Wis. He proved a quick study, and realized early on that a vital link in the supply chain was missing: People wanted every potato at any time of year. In response, he set out on his own and established Bushman’s Inc. to facilitate creative national distribution, packing and marketing efforts on behalf of regional farmers, all with a goal of “putting the potato and the person together.”

In 1974, Bushman established his own potato marketing business, Bushmans’ Inc. He became an owner and partner of A&W Farms, raising 9,000 acres of potatoes and vegetables in central Wisconsin.

“Probably the fondest memory I have of those early days,” Bushman says, “is that the loyalty of a man’s word was golden. We did more with phone calls and handshakes than most people can do on a computer today.”

Today, Bushmans’ Inc. works with some 25,000 acres of farm ground and ships thousands of loads of potatoes and onions each year to retail and foodservice customers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“Three things make a successful market,” says Bushman. “acreage, quality and frame of mind. … You have to maintain a positive attitude. There are many times when you can’t control the acreage or the yield, but you can always control the quality you ship, as well as your service and your frame of mind.”

Bushman has always believed in the high value of a potato crop, and believes that one of the biggest reasons growers don’t always see that returned to them is a failure to properly market their product.

“I have tried not to treat potatoes as a commodity,” he says. “To get the most value out of the crop grown, you have to use marketing skills … and think outside the box.”