view current print edition




Potandon's Arizona potato operations in full swing

by John Groh | June 14, 2011

Potato operations for Potandon Produce are in full swing at the company's key packing facility in Arizona, owned by Pinto Creek Co.

The strategic alliance between the two companies, established in 2002, has proven instrumental to the year-round availability of Potandon's specialty potatoes (such as Klondike Rose and Klondike Goldust), as the Arizona season bridges the gap between the Idaho and Washington seasons for these varieties.

While Arizona is not known for its potato-growing conditions, it can be quite successful when conditions are right. A moderate temperature during planting combined with a warm growing season and moderate harvest temperatures are favorable conditions to producing a good crop.

After an early freeze in February, this year's weather has been ideal for good quality and average to above-average yields.

Pinto Creek attributes its success in growing, packing and shipping quality potatoes in Arizona to growing in various locations in the Phoenix metro area, tightly managing harvest schedules, hydrocooling the product and an environmentally controlled packing facility.

Steve Elfering, vice president of operations for Potandon, noted that the key to maintaining high quality throughout the packing process is to closely monitor the potatoes' temperature.

"The hydrocooling not only effectively removes the field heat from freshly harvested potatoes, it also helps manage the potatoes' temperature throughout the packing process," Mr. Elfering said in a June 8 press release.

Temperature management has become much easier for Pinto Creek since completion of its state-of-the-art facility in Eloy, AZ, in 2009. The predominantly computer-run plant is 55,000 square feet, with 25,000 square feet of cold room space. It also features a complete variable-speed conveyor system and sensory equipment, both of which contribute to Pinto Creek's ability to size potatoes into tighter specifications than the USDA standards. This, in turn, helps Potandon to better support its customers.