Coming soon to a grocery store parking lot near you: Spud Mobile.

Duane Maatz, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, said the Antigo, Wis.-based organization hopes to have an “educational mobile unit” on the road by Thanksgiving.

The association is in the process of developing a 30-foot trailer — complete with a kitchen — that can be hauled to retail stores, restaurants, grower events and other promotional opportunities.

Maatz said he hopes the trailer will make up to 24 appearances a year for things such as cooking demonstrations and sampling.

“It’s basically a tailgating party on wheels,” he said.

Maatz said the initial investment will cost the association about $100,000. The association plans to lease a vehicle to pull the trailer but plans to invest in a vehicle for long-term use in phase two of the project. Maatz said the spud mobile likely will be used to promote local products at in-state events, but it “eventually will go beyond state borders.”

Healthy Grown

Wisconsin’s Healthy Grown label, which emphasizes low pesticide use and stewardship of the environment, will get a new look this year. Maatz said the WPVGA and its partners, which include the University of Wisconsin, are in the process of designing new packaging.

Any Wisconsin potato grower who passes a third-party certification can use the label. The program encourages growers to do the following:

  •  use less invasive ways to manage pests and invasive plants;
  •  restore natural ecosystems;
  •  prevent erosion;
  •  support native plants and animals;
  •  conserve quality water; and
  •  improve potato production

The Healthy Grown potato program has been in existence for more than a decade.

Maatz said the program is expanding with a Healthy Grown Farms label and will certify other vegetables, including peas, beans and sweet corn.

Most of those products will be for the canning industry, he said.

Farewell to Feit

The association is looking for a successor for director of promotions and consumer education Tim Feit, who was named executive director of the Wausau, Wis.-based United Cranberry Growers Cooperative in June. Feit had been with the WPVGA for more than five years.

Maatz said he hopes to hire a new director of promotions by September.

New bin

The association is offering members a new bin this year, Maatz said.

“A lot of our shippers will use that in Wisconsin to promote local product as well as in border states in markets like Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul,” he said.