Potato Seed Production Since 1982
Growing quality seed potatoes has been a long standing tradition at Sklarczyk Seed Farm.
It started in 1942 when Michael and Theresa Sklarczyk purchased the farm in Johannesburg, Michigan. They grew potatoes, as well as grain crops to feed their livestock. Mike trucked the potatoes to the Detroit Eastern Market, where a competitor soon realized the outstanding quality of potatoes that Mike was producing. The competitor asked Mike to start growing seed for his crop, eliminating Mike as his competition.
In the early 1980s, Mike and Theresa’s son Don wanted to continue in his father’s footsteps by further improving their seed potatoes for a more progressive market. Don was determined that tissue culture was the best option to reduce asymptomatic bacteria and latent virus in seed.
Don, his wife Mary Kay, and their 3 children visited Ed and Barbara Jones at their greenhouse and tissue culture laboratory at Cornell University. Mary Kay learned the correct methods for cutting potato plantlets under a clean air hood from Barbara. After the visit, Don was even more confident in the future of tissue culture seed production.
Upon returning home, a small lab was built in Don and Mary Kay’s basement to expand the 50 small plantlets received from Ed and Barbara. The following spring, the first potato plants were placed in a small greenhouse in the backyard and in an isolated test plot in the field.
The first crop was a success! There was only one hurdle left; the seed industry was not ready to change the tuber to tuber process they were accustomed to. Don was persistent. He was asked to present an overview of tissue culture seed production at the North American Seed Potato Seminar in 1988, and now the use of tissue culture is a requirement of all certification agencies in the U.S. and Canada.
In the late 1990s, Sklarczyk Seed Farm converted from soil to 100% hydroponic greenhouse production and they stopped growing a field crop of potatoes. Without the demands of growing field seed, all of the focus and resources could be put into the greenhouse.
Don and Mary Kay’s son Ben graduated from Michigan State in 2003 with an agribusiness degree and the desire to work alongside his parents, filling the position as COO for several years. Ben’s wife Alison joined the team in 2008 and joined Mary Kay in the tissue culture lab, expanding on the lab knowledge Alison gained while completing her degree in Animal Sciences at MSU. Mary Kay devastatingly passed away from a courageous battle with breast cancer in 2011, but the family business was able to persevere because of the foundation she worked so hard to create.
In 2017, Ben and Alison purchased Sklarczyk Seed Farm from Don. While Don continues to work with Ben and Alison and to improve the industry, he now has more time to enjoy with his new wife Nancy. While roles have shifted slightly with Ben stepping into the position of CEO and Alison taking on the accounting, they both remain very hands-on with the business, and are assisted by a great team of long standing employees.
About the Operation
SSF currently produces 5.5-6 million mini tubers hydroponically each year within 3 poly-top greenhouses and two 5 bay gutter connect glasshouses. All plant needs are propagated onsite in a laboratory devoted entirely to seed potato tissue culture production. SSF mini tubers are shipped throughout the U.S., Canada, Chile, Thailand, Brazil, and the Middle East. While field potatoes are no longer grown, SSF still farms about 1,110 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and oats to supply markets throughout Michigan.
MICHIGAN ADOPT A HIGHWAY PROGRAM, 1996-PRESENT
MI FARM BUREAU NATURAL & ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCE ADVISORY COMMITTEE - ALISON, 2009-2012
NATIONAL POTATO COUNCIL PRESIDENT'S AWARD - MARY KAY, 2008
MI FARM BUREAU YOUNG FARMER ACHIEVEMENT FINALIST - BEN, 2008
MI FARM BUREAU ECOLOGY LEADERSHIP AWARD, 2008
FRITO LAY SEED SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR, 2008
CHAIRMAN RESEARCH COMMITTEE MICHIGAN POTATO INDUSTRY COMMISSION - DON, 1996-2008
MAEAP VERIFIED WITHIN OUR GREENHOUSE AND FARM OPERATIONS, 2007
PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL POTATO COUNCIL - DON, 2007
MICHIGAN STATE EXTENSION ADVISORY COUNCIL - DON, 2000-2006
JOHANNESBURG LEWISTON SCHOOL TREASURER - DON, 1991-2006
SERVICE AWARD POTATO GROWERS OF MICHIGAN, 2006
CHAIR OF SCIENCE SECTION OF WORLD POTATO CONGRESS-DON, 2006
VICE PRESIDENT ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS NATIONAL POTATO COUNCIL-DON, 2003-2006
EFFICIENCY INCREASED TO PRODUCE OVER 5,000,000 MINITUBER UNITS, 80% OVER 15MM, 2005
EPA/NATIONAL POTATO COUNCIL ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AWARD, 1999
NATIONAL SEED POTATO GROWER OF THE YEAR, 1997
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD MICHIGAN POTATO COMMISSION - DON, 1995
MICHIGAN CROP IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION SERVICE AWARD - DON, 1985-1990
SPEAKER AT 1988 SEED SEMINAR. TOPIC,TISSUE CULTURE AND GREENHOUSE PRODUCTION OF SEED POTATOES, 1988
YOUNG POTATO GROWER LEADERSHIP AWARD, NATIONAL POTATO COUNCIL - DON, 1987
SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICT COOPERATOR OF THE YEAR, 1985
MAEAP 3 YEAR RE-VERIFICATION FOR SKLARCZYK SEED FARM, 2012
NATURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR MICHIGAN FARM BUREAU - ALISON, 2011
CHAIRMAN OF THE MEN'S CONFERENCE AND GAYLORD EVANGELICAL FREE CHURCH - KURT, 2011