Joel Zalewski graduated from Antigo High School and started working at Zalewski Bros., Inc., a certified seed potato farm in Antigo. They grew about 1,000 acres of potatoes, grain and clover in Langlade County. Zalewski Bros. was originally owned by Marvin and Stanley Zalewski and later their sons Joel and Dan shared joint ownership.
During his time as owner, Joel served on the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association Board as well as the potato inspection committee and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s committee to rewrite rules regarding nematode issues.
When Zalewski Bros. was sold in 1995, Joel worked as farm manager for Wirz, Inc., another certified seed potato farm. In 2003, he accepted a position at Farm Bureau Cooperative, which later became Servco FS. Joel has held several positions with FS and in 2013, he was promoted to the northern area manager.
In 2012, Frontier-Servco FS was formed with the merger of Frontier FS and Servco FS. Within Wisconsin this merger provided the diversity of products, facilities and skilled personnel necessary to be an effective partner to the various types of farming.
Q & A with Joel
From an agronomy standpoint, what do growers need to do to ensure a healthy start for a potato crop?
Take care of your land like it is your most valuable asset because it is. Minimize soil compaction to maximize the potential of your crop. Be patient regarding planting until soil temperature and moisture are appropriate. The foundation for a high quality crop is good seed planted carefully in good soil.
What potato and vegetable related services do you offer?
We provide traditional soil sampling as well as grid sampling. Our crop advisors meet with growers to evaluate information and provide recommendations to meet specific crop, field and customer needs. We have floatation equipment and operators to perform variable rate applications of lime, gypsoil and fertilizer.
What are your recommendations for a strong fertility program for potatoes?
Grid sampling fields to determine the level of variability of pH and nutrients. Variable rate recommendations derived from grid sampling can help to minimize variability and input cost as well as maximizing yields and quality.
What is offered to growers in precision farming and where do you see that segment of the industry heading?
Frontier-Servco FS believes in the value of precision farming and staff provides soil sampling, variable rate lime and fertilizer recommendations and nutrient management plans. For farms raising corn, they provide equipment and recommendations for variable rate seed spacing. We also are developing a scouting service with drones.
What makes a strong nutrient management plan?
A long-term nutrient management plan includes economics, long-term sustainability and minimizing environmental impact. While economics is the obvious part, long-term sustainability is important, as well. Carefully managing nutrient levels in the soil is important and requires expert help. Nutrient management will remain a growing challenge and careful planning is required.
Can you offer other suggestions to aid in grower success?
It is important to find trustworthy, knowledgeable partners in the industry to work collaboratively as you plan for the future. Growers are fortunate to have support from first class organizations like WPVGA, the University of Wisconsin and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. It is our goal at FS to be part of this partnership whenever possible.
Editor’s Note: The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association recently profiled Joel Zalewski in its Common Tater magazine. Zalewski is a member of the Langlade County Farm Bureau who works as the northern area manager for Frontier-Servco-FS, a division of GROWMARK, Inc. He and his wife, Jodi, live in Bryant, and have three children: Melissa, Mary Beth and Andrew. This story and photos are reprinted with the permission of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. Original version appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.