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Year-round fingerling program works well for Mountain Valley

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | January 11, 2011
CENTER, CO — Well into its first full season of year-round fingerlings, Mountain Valley Produce, based here, is moving the specialty spud at a good rate, according to General Manager Ernie Myers.

The operation, which has grown and shipped Colorado fingerlings for several seasons, went year round in 2010, shipping product from California and Colorado to close the gap.

"I am keeping an eye on the potatoes we have in storage," Mr. Myers told The Produce News in early January. “It's all looking really good. We have no quality issues, and the further we get into the storage season, the more comfortable I feel.”

Mountain Valley’s 12-month program kicked off with California fingerlings being run out of the Colorado shed in mid-July, and the Colorado fingerlings started shipping in October.

In addition to the Purple Peruvian, Yellow Russian Banana, Rose Finn, La Ratte and Austrian Crescent fingerlings, Mountain Valley also grows russets and yellows. Mr. Myers said that Farm Fresh Direct in Monte Vista is selling the full-size russets and yellows.

“I am really excited about having Dave Yeager in action at Farm Fresh,” Mr. Myers said, referring to the addition of Mr. Yeager as vice president of business development in late 2010.

Pack options The fingerlings are packed in two- and five-pound poly and poly mesh consumer bags, and foodservice orders ship in 20- and 50-pound sacks.

Mountain Valley markets under the “Willie Myers” label and also packs in private labels.

Retail makes up the majority of fingerling sales, although Mr. Myers said that foodservice is increasing. Most loads are shipped to receivers outside Colorado.

Using an in-house traceback system, Mountain Valley is Primus-certified and GHP/GAP-compliant.

“Our program is set,” Mr. Myers stated.

Looking ahead to the 2011 new crop, Mr. Myers said that he expects potato acres “will stay in check with commodity prices where they are around the country.”

He went on to say that growers will see higher input prices with fertilizer and fuel, and because wheat prices are high, many potato growers will rotate with that commodity.