The Lelah Starks Elite Foundation Seed Potato Farm, also known as the UW Starks Farm, is located west of Rhinelander, WI, on County Highway K. It is a 1,000 acre farm with 400 tillable acres surrounding a 40-acre spring fed lake.
In 1941, a foundation seed farm was established through a lease of the Mabel Piehl farm outside Three Lakes, WI by the University of Wisconsin college to support ongoing state potato certification needs. The first potato crop was only 12 acres and made up of the following varieties: Chippewa, Cobbler, Katahdin, Red Warba, Russet Rural, Sebago, and White Rose. In 1979, the Starks farm was procured by the University of Wisconsin college and the foundation seed farm was relocated to its current Rhinelander location. Sixty-three acres of seed potatoes (16+ varieties) were harvested the first year on the Starks Farm to supply approx. 1.2 million pounds of potatoes to the Wisconsin seed potato industry. Dean Leo M. Walsh dedicated the UW Starks Farm as the Lelah Starks Elite Foundation Seed Potato Farm on July 6, 1984 to honor Miss Lelah Starks, a pioneer seedswoman. Currently, approximately 100 acres of seed potatoes are harvested off the UW Starks Farm per year.
The initiation of the UW Starks Farm expanded certification opportunities for Wisconsin seed potato production in the past and continues to provide a location to produce high-quality, disease-free stock, evaluate new breeding lines and varietal clones, and ensure variety purity. Additionally, it continues to be a great location for potato seed production due to the presence of fertile sandy loam soil, isolation from adjacent potato farms, and exposure to harsh winter temperatures.
In 2023, a new public-private partnership formed between the Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program and the Wisconsin Potato Coalition (WPC) to manage the UW Starks Farm operations (planting, crop management/rotations and harvest), storage of potatoes and fulfillment of seed potato contracts. This new partnership capitalizes on the strengths of both partners and the will sustain and advance the continued production of Wisconsin high-quality seed potatoes.
State Farm Contact Information
7749 CTH K Rhinelander WI 54501
Phone: 715-282-5530 FAX: 715-282-7319
Reference: Slack, S. A. and Darling, H. M. 1986. With One Foot in the Furrow: A History of the First Seventy-five Years of the Department of Plant Pathology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Chapter 11 The Seed Potato Program. Edited by Williams, P. and Marosy, M.