Located here for 65 years, the farm specializes in growing potatoes
by Joni Astrup
Wingard Farms, which has been growing potatoes in the Elk River area for decades, has been named the Sherburne County Farm Family of the Year.
Lori Vicich, regional director for University of Minnesota Extension, said the Wingards not only do a wonderful job farming, but give back to the community as well.
The family was recognized Nov. 3 during the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Vicich outlined a history of the farm beginning with Arthur Wingard, who started vegetable farming in Brooklyn Center in 1918. His sons, John and Art, moved to Big Lake Township and Brooklyn Park in 1956 and began specializing in potato production.
Today, Wingard Farms is a fourth-generation farm in Sherburne County growing, washing and packaging potatoes, Vicich said. The Wingard family also raises seed corn and soybeans. All of their production is under irrigation.
Vicich listed the family members involved in the operation.
Tom Wingard is the manager of Wingard Farms. His wife, LuAnn, is the farm’s office manager. Tom and LuAnn’s son, Mark, and his wife, Karen, along with their sons, Ryan and Jason, help package the potatoes. Tom and LuAnn’s son, David, helps in the operation, and his wife, Britt, takes care of payroll. Also involved in keeping Wingard Farms running are Tom’s cousin, Art, and his wife, Linda, and cousin, Dan Ward, and his wife, Tracy.
Tom is a member of the Sherburne County Farm Bureau and serves as secretary/treasurer. He is involved in the Area II Potato Council and the U.S. Potato Board. Tom is also a member of the Minnesota Irrigators Association, Vicich said.
Tom thanked the county for the award and told commissioners that 2020 has been an interesting year of farming.
He said they were starting to plant their crop around the time the coronavirus was hitting the United States and they didn’t know what to expect.
“We were scared to death that the virus was going to come into our warehouse and we weren’t going to have any employees to do our packaging,” he said.
However, they made it through the season with no one getting sick.
Tom said they do not store any potatoes. Rather, the potatoes are processed right from the field at the Wingard Farms potato packing warehouse, where they are washed, dried, sized, inspected and packaged.
One of Wingard Farms’ customers is Walmart, and Tom said they supply about four semi loads of potatoes to that company each week.
They also send potatoes to the East Coast, into Canada and to other places.
Looking to the future, Tom said they have been farming about 3 miles west of the Sherburne County Government Center in Elk River for 65 years and plan to continue to do so.
“With the next generation coming up, we’ll be here for a long time,” he said.
He asked commissioners to be aware of their desire to keep farming as the area continues to grow.
Board Chair Felix Schmiesing congratulated the Wingard family and thanked them for farming in Sherburne County, telling them the county appreciates it.