By Patrick Lynn
When Clarence Worzella began farming potatoes, it was from a 40-acre parcel of land.
Today, his sons Norm Worzella and Marv Wrozella, of Plover, oversee 1,800 acres of America’s favorite vegetable—as well as 3,400 acres of other vegetables.
The Worzella sons were inducted into the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association Hall of Fame at the group’s annual awards ceremony on Feb. 3.
“We are proud of the business’s growth, which is largely attributed to the dedicated employees we’ve had in our 60 years of farming,” says Norm Worzella, CEO of Worzella & Sons, Inc. “We are glad to work alongside our sons, who are the third generation of this business.”
Marv Worzella, who is CFO of Worzella & Sons, Inc., said the two learned from their father at a young age.
“We started working with Dad in 1955, and we incorporated in 1964,” he said. “Dad worked side-by-side with us and taught us how to grow vegetables and get started in farming.”
Norm and Marv’s parents, Clarence and Regina Worzella, were community-minded people who donated to many organizations and causes. They instilled in Marv and Norm the importance of giving back—and Worzella & Sons has been able to make donations that have shown to be crucial to the well-being and future of the Wisconsin potato and vegetable growing industry.
Working with Louis Wysocki, the WPVGA, and Village of Plover, the Worzellas participated in a land exchange, discontinuing to farm a parcel of fertile land to make room for the Little Plover River Watershed Enhancement Project. The goal of the project is to improve the health of the Little Plover River and the quality of life of the surrounding community.
The Worzellas also donated more than 20 acres of land to the Farming for the Future Foundation for a new Discovery Center to be built along the Highway 39 corridor, in Plover, within the next two years. The Discovery Center promises to connect Wisconsin families and the agriculture industry through education and experience.
Marv and Norm have also been instrumental in donating for causes such as improvements at Lake Pacawa Park, in Plover.
Farming for more than 60 years, the two have operated numerous pieces of equipment and worked in each part of the farm, saying a big part of a successful farm is to keep up with technology.
And as the farm expanded, larger equipment was needed. Norm remembers harvesting potatoes and boxing them up by hand. “I didn’t like picking and grading them, but I picked a few,” he says. “Now you have Lenco 12-row harvesters.”
“I did some spraying with a little sprayer,” Norm adds, “and then we got a bigger sprayer that we pulled with a rope. There were no air-conditioned tractors back then. You sat in the open. I couldn’t even run the machines we have now.”
“We are proud to have had the opportunity to provide better equipment for our employees to do their jobs more efficiently,” he says.
Marv says he liked getting up every morning, going out into the field and seeing how the potatoes were doing, watching them grow. Even though he is 84 years old now, he visited the fields, in 2020, before going to Florida for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
“I like watching the potatoes grow, from seed potatoes to plants and then to being harvested,” Marv said.
Marv continued with his dad’s philosophy of working hard when the work needed to be done so he could take time to travel in the winter months.
In 1961, Marv was called up for the National Guard due to the Berlin Crisis. He was stationed in Washington but never activated to go oversees where he was qualified to serve as a medic.
Marv has managed the packing warehouse, but now mainly oversees the financial part of the business. With the WPVGA , Marv was involved in the bargaining committee that negotiated contracts with the vegetable processors.
In addition to his work at Worzella & Sons, Norm has been involved in several organizations, serving on the WPVGA board, as a volunteer fireman for the Village of Plover, director of the Bank of Plover (now known as BMO Harris Bank), as a member of the Plan Commission for the Village of Plover, and as a lay minister at his church.
Norm attended several conventions as part of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Organization, gathering information for the business, and learning about growing habits and machinery in South America, Africa, China, Egypt, India, Russia, and Australia.
“The U.S. was so much more advanced with technology,” Norm said, “and we took for granted how ‘easy’ it was at the time for us.”
Both men said their favorite part about working the farm today is watching the growth of the business and watching the crops, from planting to harvest.
The brothers remain active in the business.
But it truly is a family business. Marv and Norm’s sister, Shirley Sankey, is the secretary/treasurer for Worzella & Sons. Though she was formally hired in the early 1970s, Sankey worked in the fields throughout her childhood. Now semi-retired, she still oversees the office staff. Today, her daughter, Trina, is the president of Worzella & Sons.
Marv and his wife, Audrey, have been married for 58 years. They have three children, Perry, Tim, and Tanya, and six grandchildren. They lost a daughter, Lisa, in 1990. Marv and Audrey spend the winter months in Naples, Fla., where Marv enjoys going for walks, playing sudoku, and golfing.
Norm and his wife, Marie, have been married for 56 years. They have four children, Steve, Shelley, Sandy, and Scott, 11 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. They spend the winter months in Fort Myers Beach, where Norm enjoys deep sea fishing.