ANTIGO, WI — Dana Rady’s title of director of promotion, communication and consumer education suggests a long list of responsibilities for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, headquartered here.
Previously a Rhinelander, WI, television news anchor, Rady took the industry position in September 2012. As she describes WPVGA’s work, it does, indeed, reflect a wide range of services her office provides for the Wisconsin industry.
In brief, WPVGA this year has been or will be involved in national foodservice and retail promotions, in-state promotions through University of Wisconsin football and a major regional promotion titled Potato Palooza. Rady is also leading a broad effort to assure that Wisconsin potato growers are up to date on food-safety matters.
WPVGA has 300 growers or affiliate members. Wisconsin growers are required by law to pay assessments to the association. Actually becoming a member, then, is optional, but virtually all the growers are members. She added, “We have some out-of-state members. Some joined to participate in our food-safety program.”
In January, the WPVGA launched “a big food-safety push,” according to Rady. In short, the comprehensive, ongoing series brings WPVGA members up to date in understanding food-safety inspections, procedures and certifications.
For their interest and involvement in food safety, Rady said, “I admire the growers’ thought process and being proactive. They are looking at what may come down the pike that we need to think about and cross that bridge now, before it happens. This speaks volumes for the growers in the state and their individual business practices. As a consumer, I also go into produce departments and it’s nice to know the growers have my best interest at heart.”
On the lighter side, scheduled for Aug. 31, when the University of Massachusetts was set to kick off the football season at Wisconsin, fans were to be enjoying a special Celebrate Agriculture promotion. WPVGA and at least eight other in-state agricultural groups sponsored the activity, in cooperation with Badger Sports Properties, which is owned by Learfield Sports and has the exclusive right to run promotions for Wisconsin.
The Aug. 31 football game was preceded by a brunch and Badger fans were exposed to WPVGA and its ag allies’ “Celebrate Agriculture” message on the scoreboard and throughout the game experience.
Rady said, “Wisconsinites are a key audience to educate. Wisconsin is the third-largest potato producer in the nation and the largest east of the Mississippi.” She noted the benefit of a lower carbon footprint if much of the United States consumes Wisconsin potatoes.
Rady’s goal is to have consumers go into stores looking for the Wisconsin potatoes. Some chainstores have private labels, “which is not bad,” but it is good, she added “if people are able to buy local, because there are farmers in their backyard who supply the food they eat.”
In a May local promotion, WPVGA held a Potato Palooza campaign with retail stores owned by Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Roundy’s operates five retail banners throughout Wisconsin and in metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago.
The WPVGA also sponsored the June 5 golf tournament of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.
This summer, Rady represented the WPVGA at PMA’s Foodservice Conference and shared many leads with her growers. “We’ll be back next year,” she said. WPVGA will also be exhibiting at the PMA Fresh Summit convention in New Orleans this October.
Rady said the Wisconsin potato industry cooperated last November to ship two trailerloads of potatoes to New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy. The potatoes arrived on donated transportation in time for Thanksgiving.