view current print edition




Spud City marketing potatoes from a range of growing areas

by Tad Thompson | December 06, 2010
Spud City Sales LLC, based in Stevens Point, WI, regularly markets more than Wisconsin potatoes. But Tom Lundgren, president of the firm, said that practice is very true this season.

In a Nov. 11 interview with The Produce News Mr. Lundgren said Spud City handles Wisconsin potatoes grown by his own affiliated growers "plus several different growers through state, as well other areas. Now Spud City is involved in “Colorado and Idaho because of a very short crop. I have [Wisconsin] guys who will be shipping for the next week or two, when normally they would be going another month. It is going to be a very interesting summer. The only place with decent yields and quality this year is Canada and they can can't supply the whole United States."

Mr. Lundgren underscored that “Wisconsin is very short. Everybody says we are completely short compared to last year, but you can’t do that. Wisconsin had record yields, volume and quality last year. It was through the roof.” In Wisconsin in 2010, “in August and September rain affected the crop and some was left in the ground. Either they were not able to harvest or it was not worth harvesting.”

Comparing the 2009 and 2010 Wisconsin potato crops “is not comparing apples to apples.” Last season “was an incredibly high-yielding year. It’s not even really relevant to compare the two years.” Mr. Lundgren said Wisconsin potato growers average 420 to 430 hundredweight bags per acre. This year the state will average about 400.

The good news for Wisconsin growers is that “prices are very good. Carton prices have been pretty decent all year long. We have been up against the Western states.” Mr. Lundgren believes those states could have a market that is “two bucks higher and still cheaper by dollars” compared to their Eastern competition.

Still, the “grower index on returns has been decent. I would like to see it a little bit higher to cover what we are short on yields.”

To fulfill orders this fall, “we will be scrambling. It stinks when it is hard to find product. Trucks have been a pain this year since day one, and that’s not only in our area. Colorado, Washington and Idaho are an absolute bear this year” for finding truck transportation. This is true although “fuel is not through the roof. It has been a struggle the whole shipping season, so far.”

Wisconsin growers will try to stretch out their potato storage season “as long as they can.” But selling Colorado potatoes “and finding stuff from Idaho and Washington makes it that much easier to sell the people with you 12 months a year. You can’t just say 'I don’t have product and I’ll see you next fall.’ “

Asked for his overall feelings about this season, Mr. Lundgren said, “I wish for these kinds of prices with good yield year. Then we’d really hit a home run.”

He noted that Wisconsin grower index returns have ranked first of any state for about a decade.