Rather than becoming bigger, I’d rather be better and there’s always room for improvement.
“It’s something you say you won’t do and then you miss it when you’re away from it.” That’s what the general manager at Eagle River Seed Farms, LLC (formerly Felix Zeloski Farms) says of farming. A native of Wisconsin’s Northwoods and hailing from Irma, Ron Krueger grew up on his parents’ dairy farm. When he left for college to pursue a business degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, he said he would never farm again. Little did he know that life had other plans.
“I came back to northern Wisconsin, met my wife and my life changed forever,” Krueger says. He began working for Frito Lay in Rhinelander. This, he says, was his “intro into potatoes.” “You go to the educational meetings and keep learning. Repetition is important,” Krueger adds. They were educational meetings and events that put him in touch with industry researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the owner of Felix Zeloski Farms, Dennis Zeloski.
After 15 years at Frito Lay, the company downsized leaving Krueger looking to begin the next chapter in his professional career. That chapter led him to work for Dennis Zeloski running the farm at the Eagle River location.
I always loved plants and growing things. I fell in love with that portion of it and have always loved the Rhinelander area.
It’s an area, Krueger says, that provides great advantages for the farm that specializes in Wisconsin Certified Seed production. “Instead of having the heat from Central Wisconsin, we have a cooler climate and less insects, so it’s easier to keep seed clean,” he says. “Plus, our soil type is heavier ground and varies between sand depending on where you are on the farm. We have a little of all of it.”
Now the farm looks forward to new horizons and opportunities Krueger says of sale to a partnership between RPE and CSS Farms of Watertown, South Dakota. “About four years ago, Dennis expressed interest in selling the northern Wisconsin farm location and making sure it stayed in agriculture.” They contacted a few farms they thought would be interested, and the situation began really moving in 2013. Eventually, the Board of Directors at Zeloski Farms accepted the bid of CSS Farms and RPE; CSS Farms is the controlling partner for day-to-day operations.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes. With the new operation, I see us expanding our varieties and more fresh market,” Krueger reminisces. “The day-to-day things around the farm haven’t changed.” And he doesn’t anticipate the farm becoming any larger either.
“Rather than becoming bigger, I’d rather be better and there’s always room for improvement,” he adds. “We do everything and are only as good as our employees. I’ve had some really great employees,” he says of the operation which employs nine full-time employees and four to six people seasonally.
Krueger manages 1,900 acres of land; 1,000 of which is for crops. He monitors 310 acres of certified and foundation seed potatoes and about 320 acres of small grains and rotation crops. Krueger sits on the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association Board of Directors, he is President of the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association, he Chairs the WPVGA Research and Database Committees, and has served as a past WPVGA Board of Directors President.
He and his wife have been married for 40 years. They have two daughters and 5 grandchildren.