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CAFES names distinguished agriculturalist

The College of Agriculture Food and Environmental Science announced the 2009 Distinguished Agriculturist at the college's annual spring banquet.

The prestigious award is given to an individual in the agricultural field who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to the agricultural community.

James Wysocki, currently the chief financial officer-chief operations officer of the Wysocki Produce Farm, Inc. in Bancroft, as well as a partner in multiple family businesses, is this year's recipient.

"On behalf of CAFES, I'm very pleased to present Mr. James Wysocki with the 2009 Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist Award," said Dale Gallenberg, CAFES dean. "Jim truly represents the spirit of dedication, accomplishment, forward-thinking, and willingness to share with others that this award is based on."

Partners in Wysocki Product Farm, Inc.'s, businesses are Gary Wysocki, Kirk Wille, Russ Wysocki, Jeff Sommers and Bill Wysocki, all graduates of UW-RF as well. Under Wysocki and his partners' financial management, the firm's gross revenue has increased from $15 million in 1995 to $120 million in 2008.

The success has not been without its challenges. In October 1999, at peak of the potato harvest, a fire completed destroyed the businesses' processing facility and multiple offices.

"With the help of 90-plus employees, former employees, family and friends, they opened for business in a former facility on Monday at 6:30 a.m. after the Saturday fire, resulting in only one order of 33 semi-loads missed," wrote a nominator.

Then in 2001, the potato market crashed, resulting in a $4.5 million loss.

"Luckily, Jim's UW-RF training enabled him to lead a restructure and gain the complete confidence of the banks, returning the business to preferred status and avoiding foreclosure," wrote a nominator.

In 2008, the company purchased a competing potato growing, processing and marketing firm, making it a national and state leader in potato and onion procurement and marketing, operating in 48 contiguous states with satellite offices in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Wysocki graduated from UWRF in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in agricultural marketing and accounting. A C.P.A., he is active in the National Potato Council and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Association (WPVA), serving as president of both organizations as well as other executive roles such as vice president of legislative and government affairs.

Wysocki was awarded the WPVA's Young Grower Award and its Volunteer of the Year Award, along with its President's Award. Agri-View newspaper presented him with an Agricultural Communicator Award in 2001.

Active in legislative affairs, Wysocki was a co-author of legislation revising Wisconsin high capacity groundwater wells and was an active contribution to Wisconsin dairy siting law. He has also led family crop farming integration initiatives with large-scale dairying to lessen chemical and fertilizer pollution.

Wysocki's philosophy of farming is one of strong partnerships.

"My father Louis Wysocki, and two uncles, Francis and Greg, owned the farming operation before us and still work with us," he said. "Our farming strategy is to work in as many partnerships as possible. This includes our suppliers, other growers, customers, and service providers. We feel that the best way to achieve success is to link the success of those around us with our own."

"Jim is sought after nationally for his business acumen and has helped numerous family farm business restructure to meet banking cash flow and profitability criteria and has also counseled many farm families to make the transfer from one generation to the next, which is mostly volunteer," wrote a nominator.

Wysocki is the second person in his family to receive the Distinguished Agriculturalist Award from UW-RF. His father, Louis, received the award in 1992.

Wysocki, who lives in Custer with his wife, Sharon, have five children between the ages of four and 24.