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Maine potatoes are on a roll

Maine Farmers Exchange reported that despite a dry growing season, the state has another good-looking potato crop this year.

“Yields vary widely and are dependent on variety and planting dates,” said Bob Davis, president of MFX, based in Presque Isle, ME. “Some are finding poor yields on non-irrigated ground where they had early varieties planted; they just did not get enough water at the right time. We anticipate good quality with perhaps a smaller profile on some varieties and normal on others.”

He added that it was too early to determine exactly what volumes will be, but he thinks there could be shortages on some varieties as spring approaches.

“Harvest started in earnest the week of September 18, but was slowed by some 80-plus degree weather that lasted approximately three days,” explained Davis. “Weather then moderated, and everyone shifted back into high gear. We received some showers and rain along the way, but it did not slow harvest down for more than a day.”

As of mid-October, the MFX harvest was just about wrapped up, with just a few stragglers finishing the week of Oct. 23. Overall, reports state that it was a great harvest period.

The company’s warehouses and farmers continue to work on food-safety initiatives. “We monitor all of these programs constantly,” said Davis. “Today you’re never finished with these initiatives, and each year we cross yet another bridge to meet our customer’s and consumer’s food safety demands. It requires a continual effort to get increasingly better at delivering good quality, healthy and safe food to consumers.”

MFX is also strongly sustainable-conscious. It monitors its water use carefully, and Davis boasted about this region of North American benefiting from receiving most of its moisture from Mother Nature, as opposed to many areas that are dependent of irrigation each season.

“Farming practices here result in a very small footprint on the environment because of our natural climate conditions,” he said. “In fact, we have less environmental impact than any other potato producing area that I know of. We are proud of the fact that we are good stewards of the land.”

MFX’s customers include retailers and foodservice operations. Davis said that unlike many commodities, both categories tend to stick with their tried and true mix of potatoes.

“They like consistency, so they tend to not change sizes often,” he said. “If they want to make a change, they’ll typically add a different potato to their section, but they won’t stop buying something that has proven solid.

He pointed out that perhaps the best crops MFX has this year are in the russets for processing category.

“Chipstock has an average yield with good quality,” he said. “Color should be excellent. Tablestock and seed potatoes might be a little less than average, but the quality going into storage looked to be outstanding.”

Davis said that prices were strong for most of the summer crop, and that MFX was looking forward to good markets into the holiday season.

“And retailers like new crop potatoes,” he continued. “Stores will advertise new crop potatoes regardless of where they’re located.”