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Sweet potato quality is key at Topashaw Farms

Officials at Topashaw Farms really know their sweet potatoes — after all, they have been growing them for over three decades, and over that time have cultivated a reputation in the industry for supplying top-notch sweet potatoes that are marketed under the Topashaw Farms label.

“Our 2019 harvest is looking great!” Lindsey Edmondson, sales and logistics manager at Topashaw Farms, told The Produce News.

“We have had no rain since we started digging and we have been able to get a lot harvested.”

farmandranch Based in Vardaman, MS, billed as “The Sweet Potato Capital of the World,” Topashaw Farms specializes in the Beauregard variety of sweet potato.

Developed at Louisiana State University in 1987, Beauregard is considered the classic sweet potato, featuring a reddish-purple skin with a sweet, deep-orange flesh that keeps well in storage.

Topashaw Farms grows its sweet potatoes on some 3,000 acres. In addition to sweet potatoes, Topashaw Farms also grows cotton and raises cattle, but it is the sweet potato on which the company hangs its hat.

“Want sweet potatoes that consistently deliver the taste, color and shape that consumers desire?” Edmondson asked. “At Topashaw, we refresh our varieties every year, ensuring the foundation characteristics that consistently produce top of the line produce for your market. And we don’t stop there. On our farm we test new varieties to make sure our Topashaw Farms brand is constantly improving.”

Healthy plants are key to producing quality sweet potatoes, Edmondson said. “We make sure that happens with the safe and effective use of FDA approved fungicide to prevent disease,” she said.

“At Topashaw Farms, we work hard at conditioning the soil to guarantee better shape, size and skin quality of our sweet potatoes. These are traits that consumers strongly desire,” Edmondson said. “We carefully apply fertilizers at recommended rates and use foliars to certify that Topashaw Farms produces the healthiest plants and best tasting sweet potatoes possible!”

Topashaw Farms sweet potatoes are harvested using mechanical diggers while an experienced labor force individually grades potatoes in the field. This is the first of three steps in the family-owned-and-operated company’s quality grading process.

Next, bins are labeled in the field to ensure traceability as part of Topashaw Farms’ USDA GAP certification requirement. Then the sweet potatoes are stored in controlled climate houses. Curing rooms provide new crop availability as early as ten days after harvesting, ensuring consistent quality, while improving both taste and shelf life.

Topashaw Farms potatoes are carefully rinsed, washed and hand-graded with its custom built multiple washing and grading system.

Topashaw Farms uses two Kerian mechanical sizers allowing it the capability to grade multiple sizes at one time. To further protect quality, Topashaw Farms sweet potatoes are handled only once.

To safeguard traceability, Topashaw Farms records field numbers on all lots washed. Unlike other packers, every Topashaw box runs through this washer only, giving the customer consistent product quality with every order.

To better service its customers, Topashaw Farms is in the midst of an expansion.

“We are in the process of building more controlled temp storage buildings and a new packing line in addition to the one that we currently have,” Edmondson said.

Sweet potatoes are considered among the healthiest of all vegetables, and Edmondson said supermarkets need to do their part to increase sales and consumption.

“Retailers need to educate their customers on the health benefits of sweet potatoes and make displays with the encouragement of all departments, including the deli, dry grocery and produce, to harmonize promotions,” Edmondson said.