First Potatoes Out of the Ground in Idaho


Some of the first Idaho potatoes are coming out of the ground this week for the 2019/2020 season. Reports indicate that yield is good and the size profile is peaking on mid sizes with a good spread either way.

“Our harvest starts August 9 and we plan to start shipping right away,” shared Colin Gibson of 20/20 Produce Sales. “The potatoes are coming out of the far western part of Idaho, on the Oregon border. The growers are reporting a nice size profile, with good numbers of 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.”

Despite some hot weather from time to time over summer, Gibson said the general growing conditions have been favorable. “The last of the hot spell ended earlier this week, and now we have a run of cooler weather. This will provide nice harvest conditions and help with the transport and the product itself.”

Early start to the day
To take advantage of the coolness at that time of day, growers opt to begin harvest each morning well before sunrise. Harvested potatoes are immediately loaded into the truck to be taken to the packing shed. Gibson said 20/20 Produce cooperates with truck drivers in order for the process to be as efficient as possible.

“We usually start digging between 3am and 4am as it is cooler at that time of day,” he explained. “The loaded trucks then make their way to the packing shed which is about a two to three hour drive from the field. We try and schedule each truck with 30 minute intervals in between. That way, the drivers can get some more rest without having to sit near the field waiting to get loaded.

New crop two dollars more than storage
20/20 Produce has managed its storage crop so that they shipped the last of it a week ago, right on time for the new crop. The market for new crop potatoes is expected to be about two dollars higher than storage crop, based on historical trends.

“The market right now is around $19 and we usually see the new crop come in $2 higher, so hopefully we will have an opening of $21,” Gibson said.

Incidentally, the new crop being packed now are Norkotah potatoes. These mature around 30 days earlier than Burbanks, enabling growers to enter the market with new crop Idaho potatoes sooner. According to Gibson, Norkotahs are seeing an increase in demand.

“They are certainly gaining in popularity,” he said. “Along with the earlier availability, Norkotahs are proving to have a higher pack-out percentage and are enjoying increased movement because of this.”

Cross-docking facility being considered
20/20 Produce Sales not only sells potatoes, but also items like onions and apples. The company has found more customers are interested in receiving a greater variety of produce from the one supplier. Therefore, this year 20/20 Produce is going to look into expanding its cross-docking capabilities, especially with specialty potatoes.

“We will look to increase our cross-docking this season, including for fingerlings, reds and Yukons and of course onions, for those customers that need to utilize more space on the truck,” Gibson shared. “Customer want to be more efficient and cost-aware when it comes to their deliveries. With the increased activity in this area, 20/20 Produce is even looking at building a dedicated cross-docking facility in the future.”

By Fresh Plaza