50 for 50: Steve Diercks

Published online: Sep 21, 2021 50 for 50, Articles, 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. To view the full roster of “50 for 50” honorees, click here
This article appears in the September 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

Potatoes—and particularly leadership in the potato industry— is in Steve Diercks’s blood. When he was elected president of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) in 1989, he became the fourth generation in his family to serve in that role. (Steve’s son Andy was also WPVGA president in 2002).

Of course, Diercks wouldn’t have spent a lifetime being a trusted industry voice if he hadn’t earned that respect through a highly successful career as a farmer. In 1962, Steve and his father Robert founded Coloma Farms, named for the village near which it resides. Since then, the operation has grown to some 2,700 acres, on which 850 acres of potatoes as well as soybeans, corn and other vegetables are grown each year. He manages the farm today in partnership with his son Andy.

Under Steve’s direction, Coloma Farms has placed a premium on research and sustainability, developing a strong relationship with researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, WPVGA, World Wildlife Fun and other entities. He was instrumental in raising industry financing for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Storage Research Facility at the UW’s Hancock Agricultural Research Station. Steve and Andy regularly welcome researchers to their farm with open arms. In 1996, Coloma Farms received the prestigious Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Potato Council (NPC). These relationships have helped Coloma Farms thrive by enabling it to grow the most profitable and environmentally sound product it can. Steve has always seen this focus on science and discovery as his obligation to future generations of potato growers—a philosophy Andy has continued to employ in his own farm and business relationships.

On top of his aforementioned work with WPVGA, Steve has held leadership positions with the NPC; Potatoes USA; Wisconsin Potato Industry Board; UW College of Agriculture & Life Sciences; Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection; and several other local, regional and national organizations.

In a family chain of potato industry leaders that dates back nearly a century, it’s safe to say Steve Diercks is an indispensable link.