It all began with an Antigo-based truck and tire business operated by brothers Gary and James Mortenson. Called Mortenson Brothers Trucking and Southside Tire, Gary and James had hauled potatoes for a farm that couldn’t pay them back. For this reason in 1968, they took on ownership of some of the crop.
Five short years later, Gar and James established Mortenson Bros. Farms Inc., where the two farmed together until James’ passing in 1980. The farm, however, didn’t miss a beat and continued to prosper with the addition of crops and acreage.
In 1991, Jack’s son, Jim, graduated from Antigo High School, at which time he immediately started farming with his dad on a full-time basis. With his parents’ help, Jim began his own farm in 1997 and called it Mortenson Produce, LLC.
Jack passed away in 2004 just before planting season, leaving everything in Jim’s hands. Although difficult at the time, Jim reminisces that “somehow it all fell into place.” Jim hired experienced managers and employees, who helped keep everything moving forward on the more than 5,000 acres of potatoes and vegetables.
The business continued to grow and diversify with an additional 5,000 acres, managers and employees. With this growth came the introduction of more specialty crops to the soil such as beets and carrots. “We have always been primarily a process potato and canning vegetable farm,” Jim says. “My personality fits well with the people I do business with. It’s always been my goal to make it a team effort, working closely with our customers.”
And as the organization continued to see success over the years, Mortenson says while he’s grateful for all of them, he also doesn’t want to be complacent. “A good friend of mine once told me something that rings true to me every day: Anybody can farm in the good years, but only a good farmer can manage the bad years.”
Moretenson farms over 10,000 acres in several Wisconsin counties, including red, white and russet potatoes which all go for processing. The farms also produces rotational crops like sweet corn green beans, peas, wax beans, red beets, carrots and field corn.
Mortenson has a wife, Tracy, a son, Max and two daughters, Grace and Audrey. He has served as Wisconsin’s representative at the 2011 Potato Industry Leadership Institute and enjoys golf and racquetball.