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Quality good, sizing mixed on early harvest of Idaho russets at Wada Farms

“It is still very early, but quality looks to be good, yields seem to be off a little, and sizing is a little mixed,” Kevin Stanger, president of Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, ID, told The Produce News as the 2019 Idaho potato harvest was getting under way.

The Russet Norkotah harvest had been going a week or so in the earliest areas. “We just started our reds yesterday. They look really good. I mean really bright, colorful reds. And we will start yellows next Tuesday [Sept. 3].” He expected to start Russet Burbanks the latter part of September.

“I believe yields will be down in general,” he said, “but I do see a pretty good quality crop.”

02-Wada---Microwave-ready-russets While russets constitute a major share of Wada Farms’ volume, “we also have a good supply of reds and yellows,” Stanger said. “We have a good supply of organics—russets, reds, yellows and purples. We also have chipper potatoes. So we have a good selection of potato availability to offer our customers.”

The company also offers value-added potato products. “We have small potatoes in microwavable packages” as well as steamable potatoes and individually wrapped baking potatoes, he said. “We have a full selection of products available” for retail, wholesale and foodservice customers. “We are a one-stop shop.”

Wada Farms offers the products in grower labels, private labels and the national Dole brand. “So we really have the full gamut of possibilities in what we can offer and provide a customer.”

In addition to Idaho-grown potatoes, Wada Farms sources potatoes from other growing regions, particularly Colorado. The company also markets onions and sweet potatoes from various growing areas.

“We are doing a lot of cross-docking with onions” so customers can put them on the same load with potatoes, “and we have a sweet potato program out of Oregon, so we can bring sweet potatoes over and mix them with our other potato program,” said Stanger.

A fairly new addition to the Wada Farms lineup is watermelons. “We work with some of the growers in North Carolina that grow other commodities [besides sweet potatoes], one of which is watermelons,” Stanger said. “We actually moved quite a bit of watermelons this year,” mostly to the Midwest and the East Coast.” The company has been handling the watermelons for “the last couple of years, and it is continuing to expand.”

In addition to the company’s diverse product line, “the other aspect that we offer is our ability with analytical data and category management that we have available,” pulling from Nielsen and IRI, to help customers particularly in the retail sector, Stanger said.

That enables Wada Farms to help retailers “analyze and truly look at their category” and to give them data-driven suggestions on how to improve such things in their operations as their assortment, their selection and their pricing.

“One thing we are always working on [at the farm level] is what we can do to better our quality and storability of the potatoes that we are growing here at Wada Farms,” Stanger said. ”We are always redefining ways in which we are monitoring our quality, monitoring our harvest and minimize any defects and quality issues” to make sure customers get the best quality possible.