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Yellows, organics strong for Monte Vista Potato Growers

An uptick in yellow potato production, coupled with plans to extend the upcoming shipping season to 10-11 months, ushered in the 2017 new potato crop for Monte Vista Potato Growers, according to General Manager Jason Tillman.

Tillman told The Produce News on Aug. 15 that the shed had cleaned up 2016 spuds on Aug. 1, going “10 days to two weeks longer than we normally do.”montevistajasontillman-for-web Jason Tillman

“We look to start the new crop the first week of September, with the majority of our volume staying russets,” he said. However, he added that yellows are up this year and comprise 20-25 percent of the total volume.

“We’ll have close to 140k of yellows this year,” he said. “The biggest increase in our production is in yellows, and that market is still growing.”

In addition to ramping up its yellows, MVPG is also seeing good response on the organic potatoes added to the lineup in 2016. The operation offers certified organic reds, yellows and russets, with volume “pretty evenly split” among the varieties, Tillman said.

Going into the 2016 season, MVPG saw the construction of a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and line, and now at the start of the second season for the line, Tillman said the equipment has performed well.

The facility can provide a full range of pack sizes, and the shed has two automated Celox sizer/sorters.

“We made a few adjustments, and now we’re ready for several good years,” he said. The shed remains status quo going into 2017’s harvest and storage, and Tillman said the farms are staying current with methods and technology.

“I know some guys in the Valley are using drones,” he said about crop monitoring. “All our tractors are GPS, and all applications are made through the pivot in our center-pivot irrigation system.”

Tillman had said previously that Colorado’s increase in minimum wage, going from $8.31 in 2016 to $9.30 currently and increasing each year until it reaches $12 per hour in 2020, has prompted the industry to turn to more automation. He noted in January that “machines don’t need a day off or workman’s comp,” and he expressed hope the minimum wage would be increased nationwide “so Colorado can compete in the marketplace.”

He also commented on the Centennial State’s stake in exports to Mexico, noting that MVPG ships about one-fourth its volume to the 26-kilometer buffer zone.

“We have also tested up in Canada,” he said. “It has worked out pretty well for us, and we shipped cartons of russets.”