Potato Grower

April 2020

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WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 17 maintenance for Alsum Farms & Produce in Friesland, Wis. "I oversee our logistics and maintenance teams, continue to work closely with the accounting team, and work with the Alsum leadership team to strategically guide the business forward," she says. "I feel so blessed to be working alongside my dad and sister [Heidi Alsum-Randall] and so many other great people within the Alsum companies. It is rewarding to be part of this incredible industry with so many hardworking individuals who grow and supply nutritious potatoes." Dykstra didn't always work for Alsum Farms & Produce. Her education helped her land an internship and eventual full-time position as an auditor for Grant Thornton LLP, a large accounting and advisory firm. "I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with and see inside operations from clients across a number of industries," she says. "I do agree with, and strongly encourage, getting experience outside of the family business." Dykstra worked in the Alsum Farms & Produce packing shed and later helped in the office during high school and college. "Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to do my best, apply myself in school and find a job one day that I would enjoy and be passionate about," she says. LESSONS TO LEARN "Both of my parents went to college, so it seemed natural for me to plan for, but I was also encouraged," Dykstra says. "I am thankful my dad recognized there are valuable lessons to be learned outside of a family business." J.D. Schroeder of Schroeder Brothers Farms in Antigo, Wis., says his parents expected the kids to go to college, and then left the choice of returning to the farm up to them. Schroeder is not completely sold on the idea of college being for everyone, even though he is on the Antigo School Board. He cites a book he recently read titled The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University. Caplan argues that students are right when they think about school, "When am I going to use this?" He suggests education is 80 percent signaling and 20 percent human capital, the human capital being useful things they learn in school, like reading and basic math. "Much of the rest of what we learn is not useful," Schroeder says, referencing the book. "When we get non-professional degrees, we are signaling to employers our intelligence, conformity and how hard we work, along with our attention to detail. "However, if you really want to be good at something, you have to know a lot about the field [domain knowledge]," Schroeder continues, explaining the author's viewpoint. "With that said, I loved school. College and law school were much more enjoyable than high school." Schroeder holds an agriculture business Wendy Dykstra says that though she is happy she came back to the farm, she's also thankful that her parents recognized the valuable lessons to be learned outside of a family business. Alex Okray (left), chief financial officer of Okray Family Farms, says he gained a lot by moving away from home for a few years and being off on his own. Here, he shares information about his family's potato operation with Jeff Endelman (right), who leads the potato variety development program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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