The Lelah Starks Elite Foundation Seed Potato Farm, also known as the State 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 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 State Farm per growing season.
The initiation of the State Farm expanded certification opportunities for Wisconsin seed potato production in the past and continues to provide a location to produce 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.
The State Farm supplies Wisconsin seed potato growers with early generation seed potatoes on a fee-for-service basis. All potatoes grown on the State Farm originate in a tissue culture laboratory located in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Biotron Building. These plantlets are grown in a NFT (nutrient film technique) hydroponic system or in a potted soil greenhouse located on the State Farm and mini or regular tubers are later harvested and stored. Tubers are planted the following growing season to produce field year one stock. These seed tubers are then either sold or multiplied additional field years to meet grower needs. Both greenhouse grown and field-grown tubers may be purchased.
State Farm Contact Information
Alex Crockford (Program Director) 7749 CTH K Rhinelander WI 54501
Phone: 715-282-5530 FAX: 715-282-7319 Cell: 715-610-4668
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.