The motto “Farming for the Future” and term “sustainability” go hand-in-hand. At Heartland Farms, owners Jeremie and Alicia Pavelski are living out that motto with a commitment to energy efficiency and overall sustainability across the entire farm.
Heartland Farms is a fifth-generation family farm specializing in potatoes, sweet corn, canning peas and green beans. They manage 24,000 irrigated acres spread across five counties in central Wisconsin. The farm began with 80 acres in 1873, and those original acres are still farmed today. As one of the nation’s premier suppliers of chipping potatoes, Heartland Farms has storage facilities with the capacity for more than a one-half billion pounds of potatoes.
Heartland Farms provides chipping potatoes for Frito Lay and exemplifies the company’s commitment to 100% sustainably sourced corn and potatoes. The storage facilities at Heartland have revolutionized the chipping potato industry through development of new agronomic and storage protocols for Frito Lay varieties. Potato storage management is key to delivering a high-quality product throughout the entire year.
“We want to make the land better and more productive next year, the following year and 100 years from now,” said Jeremie. “They aren’t making any more soil, so we need to be taking care of what we have.”
Heartland Farms is home to more than 100 center pivot irrigation systems and uses advanced technology to control irrigation systems remotely from a smartphone or tablet. Proper irrigation is vital for maintaining yield and quality of a crop highly sensitive to stress from Mother Nature.
One example of the farm’s advanced irrigation technology is automatic rain gauges on the irrigation systems. The gauge measures rainfall and automatically shuts down the system when the crop has enough water to meet its needs. This helps the team respond two hours faster to rainfall events, saving 36 million gallons of water each time. Automatic rain gauges have a ripple effect of benefits, from cutting back on miles traveled to irrigation units, to improved response time by team members, to efficient utilization of inputs.
“We have developed this team that is an amazing mix of old school knowledge and new, tech-savvy members,” Jeremie said. “Across the board, we really are a group of geeks: soil geeks, engineer geeks, irrigation geeks. Knowledge is power here.”
Advanced technology helps set teammates up for success. Modern, comfortable, safe and reliable vehicles are a win-win for Heartland and the environment. Utilizing technology lowers miles traveled per potato produced, promotes fuel efficiency and helps Heartland recruit and maintain team members.
Heartland Farms’ LED replacement project has offered huge energy savings. By replacing all the lights in their buildings with LED lights, Heartland Farms has seen a reduction in both energy costs and usage. Frito Lay stands behind this commitment to energy savings by also utilizing 100% LED lighting in their manufacturing facilities.
The team at Heartland Farms is always looking at what they can do to be better for themselves, their communities and their customers.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to be the best neighbor we can be,” Jeremie said.
There are always new technologies to incorporate, but sustainability has been at the core of Heartland Farms from the very beginning.
Rachel Gerbitz is WFBF’s Director of Sustainability Communications and Partnerships. In this newly-created role, she oversees the organization’s sustainability communication efforts. Rachel grew up in Rock County where she was involved in 4-H and the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association. She now lives in Kaukauna. In her spare time, Rachel manages her small herd of registered Jersey cattle.