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Demand for specialty potato products may lead to Bushmans' expansion

For Bushmans’ Inc., and other Wisconsin growers, the potato crop this fall is looking very good.

Mike Carter, CEO of Bushmans’, based in Rosholt, WI, said very wet spring conditions will cost Wisconsin a small percentage of its potential 2017 potato acreage. However, the surviving acreage is fine, especially given weeks of ideal weather this summer. “A lot of people suggest the crop is made from late-July into late August,” said Carter, with Wisconsin’s typical warm days in the mid-80s and cool nights in the 50s.

Carter noted that in Rosholt there has not been one day over 90 degrees this summer. “Only in a handful of years has it not reached 90,” he said.

“The crop seems a little behind, but every week we let it go (by delaying harvest) it is bulking up.”

The potato harvest process started for Bushmans’ on Aug. 5. It will last until about Oct. 10, when, because of the threat of frost, harvesting Wisconsin potatoes after that date “is living on borrowed time.”

Carter said Bushmans’ specialty shed, built in recent years to pack specialty potato products — may be expanded this season to help meet strong demand. The biggest item packed here by Bushmans’ is foil-wrapped baking potatoes in overwrapped trays.

“Demand is growing year-to-year,” Carter added. “Consumers still value convenience.” These products “are a small percentage of our overall business but are definitely important to consumers.”

Bushmans has added two new salesmen in its Mukwonago, WI, office. Chris Fleming, who previously was working in his family-owned business, Strube Celery, in Chicago, is on the sales staff, as is Michael Bader, who arrives from the retail side of the business.

Fleming joined Bushmans’ last October. Bader came to the firm in the spring.