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Michele Peterson joined the sales team at Aspen Produce LLC, headquartered in Center, CO, Nov. 10. "This is just a wonderful environment," Ms. Peterson told The Produce News Nov. 23. The family-owned company has been growing and shipping potatoes from its state-of-the-art facility in Colorado's San Luis Valley since 1971.

Prior to joining Aspen Produce, Ms. Peterson worked at Harvest Select in Monte Vista, CO, for 10 years. Her husband is a third-generation potato farmer in the valley.

Aspen Produce markets potatoes throughout the United States. The area from the Southeast to Midwest is a particularly strong market for the firm, and Ms. Peterson said that the company also exports potatoes to Mexico.

Asked about the challenges she sees for Aspen Produce in moving product, Ms. Peterson replied, "Surprisingly to me, when there is a poor economy, potato sales are usually high." Foodservice sales have been good, but Ms. Peterson said that the retail market is not as strong as she would like to see.

As far as explanations for flagging sales, Ms. Peterson said, "The people cooking their meals at night have a limited amount of time to cook." Consumers tend to think of potatoes as a commodity, she said, which takes long preparation times despite the convenience of the microwave. "Things like rice are cutting into potato sales," she added.