‘Don't Be Afraid’

Science, passion fuel Pamela Sankey’s agricultural pursuits

BANCROFT, Wis. — Pamela Sankey’s hands break through the frost-crusted top soil of a freshly planted potato hill.

Her fingers claw through the earth, sifting the dirt in search of fresh-cut seed submerged beneath the dirt less than a week ago.

“I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty,” she said.

Sankey, a Wysocki Family of Companies agronomist, travels field to field to ensure spring’s chilly temperatures don’t disrupt the crop potential nesting underneath the hill.

The entire field could be lost before the potatoes have a chance to grow if the cold seeps too deeply into the ground. The hope is seed temperatures remain above freezing, and the only way to know if the potatoes are warm enough is to take their temperature.

Sankey notes readings between 33 and 36 degrees. The potatoes are safe for now, and

Sankey can look forward to monitoring the crop’s emergence and growth once temperatures rise.

Farming is in Pamela Sankey’s DNA.

She has been part of the Wysocki Family of Companies for five years, realizing a clinical laboratory setting wasn’t right for her. She needed to stay connected to agriculture.

That’s why she joined the farm. That’s why she still milks 50 cows on her home dairy farm morning and night. That’s why she is dedicated to the future of farming and introducing young people to the lifestyle.

“I’m up from sunup till sundown, but I wouldn’t change it,” Sankey said. “I like the challenge.”

Sankey’s days on the farm rarely look the same as the year cycles by, and she likes it that way.

In addition to ample time spent outdoors, she runs a gamut of responsibilities from evaluating seed spacing and depth in the spring, to monitoring plant emergence, pests and tuber initiation during the growing season and sampling Frito Lay potato chip varieties during harvest — including making chips and French fries.

No matter what the day calls for, Sankey’s methods are backed in data and science.

“Just seeing the whole science behind a potato is amazing,” she said. “No one would

have thought how much work goes into that potato on your plate, or that chip you’re eating.”

Everything Sankey does is with great attention to detail.

She ensures the quality of potatoes grown for one of the nation’s top potato chip producers. She is certain to take great care of the cows on her home farm.

And she goes one step further.

She is invested in the future of agriculture and the children who might one day adopt it as their own way of life.

Sankey helped create the Keeping Kids in Farming initiative — a grassroots effort to bring farming into area classrooms and teach children about agriculture.

“Growing up on a farm is becoming almost an extinct thing, because there’s not many small farms left,” she said. “I just want them to have the ability to realize where their food comes from and be like, hey, it’s not just the grocery store that the food comes from. It’s the farmers behind it.”

Sankey teamed up with Wysocki Produce Farms operations manager Blake Schultz to develop the project. His expertise in operations and equipment pair perfectly with Sankey’s background in crop and animal science.

“We need everybody as farmers. It doesn’t matter who you are, what skin color, gender doesn’t matter. We want everybody to farm,” Schultz said. “I think that the little girls in a classroom look up to Pamela and I think that they were more engaged (with her).”

Sankey dreams of one day turning her own family farm into an education center for kids to drive tractors, interact with animals and plant their own crops.

She wants to awaken the awareness within future generations of what it means to be involved in agriculture.

She wants them to get their hands dirty, too.

“The opportunities are endless, and If you’re passionate about it, do it,” she said. “Don’t be afraid.”

If you like the sound of Pamela’s day-to-day responsibilities and the opportunities they provide, please look at Wysocki Family of Company’s available career opportunities.