Fresh potato supplies out of central Minnesota are coming to an end for the season. “We have two farms that will be done with reds by the end of the week and I only have about 30 acres of Russets left,” says Kevin R. Olson of Ben Holmes Potato-Owner & Sales.
Following the start of the season in the last week of July, this end time looks to be as per usual. “I have one farm that won’t be done with Russets until the beginning of the second week of October. However they’re a smaller shed and can maybe pack out six to seven loads a day while the other farms can do 10 to 12 loads a day,” says Olson.
In general, this caps a season that he says has been good for the three farms he works with. Yields are slightly better this season due to growing conditions. Even though it was a drier season, the region’s potatoes are under irrigation and the season also didn’t see a lot of excessive heat. “Some of the early yields were down. When we planted, there were some 90-degree days in April and early May and I think that hurt,” says Olson. “Over 90-degree days in May isn’t very common here.”
On pricing, red and yellow potatoes have had a strong year for most of the season until the last few weeks when pricing softened. Russets however are a different story. “There are a lot more Russets across the country. Last year the first carton of Russets I sold was $40/box and the first one this year started at $18 a box,” says Olson.
That said, even with the strong Russet supply, yields for the farms he works with will still fall into being a top five year for overall yields, especially given the region is working with fresh potato supplies. “We can pack out 400-500 bags an acre on reds and yellows so even though the market prices dropped, we make up for it in the yields and the pack-out rates. So there’s less shrink when you’re coming off the fields--you don’t get as many #2s,” adds Olson.