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Valley Pride/Sterling Hill Farms anticipates good market

With indications for a good start for the 2017 Skagit Valley potato season, optimism was high as the Valley Pride Sales team in Burlington, WA, prepared for harvest to start around Labor Day.

Valley Pride handles all potato sales for Sterling Hill Farms, and Dale Hayton said the crop looks good and demand is building for “high-quality colored potatoes.” Hayton and David Clark work the sales desks.

SterlingHillTony Wisdom, Norm Nelson Jr. and Jim Nelson team up at Sterling Hill Farms to grow red, white, gold and purple spuds in the Skagit Valley of Washington. The potatoes are sold through Valley Pride Sales. Photo courtesy of Sterling Hill Farms/Valley PrideHayton said on Aug. 4, “I have a good feeling the way conditions are now. There is not a big supply of those high-quality colored potatoes, but there is pent-up demand and good pricing. I have high hopes for the market.”

He said vine kill started in early August, and harvest will commence shortly after Labor Day. The operation supplies conventional reds, golds, whites and purples, and Hayton said Valley Pride is “looking to have organics as part of the lineup next year.”

Valleywide conditions have run the gamut from record precipitation between November and April to “a record of no rain,” Hayton said. “We’re now in day 50 of no rain, but the two patterns have made for average precip for a normal year.”

Hayton noted the dry conditions are far easier to counter than too much rain, and he said the crop looked very good in early August.

“Irrigation crews are moving equipment and pipe, and the fields look good. The plants I’ve pulled look nice, and we’re expecting a nice crop. I’d much rather have dry than too wet.”

Most of the spuds go to retail and wholesale, with a smaller amount going to foodservice. Hayton said a good volume goes to Canada.

He noted that the past several years Sterling Hill Farms has kept current with both buyer demand and tech changes. “This year we will have a few more golds to meet demand,” Hayton said. “And we’re constantly making improvements to our packingline and field equipment.”

GPS is standard for the tractors, and the shed uses some optics for sizing and sorting.

“We’re doing more automated palletizing and baling to be more efficient, Hayton said. “We always want to present the best product, and we offer our potatoes in bags ranging from 24 ounces to 20 pounds along with 50-pound cartons.”