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Dave Yeager

An Aug. 12 merger between Colorado-based Farm Fresh Direct LLC and two out-of-state potato shippers has FFD laying claim to being the largest grower-owned fresh potato shipper in the United States.

According to Dave Yeager, vice president of business development for FFD, the merger of R.D. Offutt Co.’s O’Neill, NE, and Winnemucca, NV, potato operations with Farm Fresh Direct brought about a new national sales and marketing company, Farm Fresh Direct of America.

“This is a great opportunity for two companies to combine their expertise,” said Mr. Yeager. “RDO brings a wealth of farming experience, and that, coupled with FFD’s sales and marketing, makes for a perfect fit.”

R.D. Offutt Co. currently farms over 190,000 acres in the United States, of which 60,000 are potatoes, making it the single-largest potato grower in the country. Other operations include a 26,000-acre dairy in Oregon and a recent 7,000-acre farming venture in Russia.

Farm Fresh Direct is the largest fresh potato shipper in Colorado and operates six packing operations in the state, two of which recently completed major upgrades and renovation in time for the 2011 season.

The Monte Vista-headquartered FFD is also one of the larger organic russet and fingerling growers in the United States.

 

“We’re extremely excited to have RDO as part of the Farm Fresh team,” said Jim Knutzon, president and chief executive officer of Farm Fresh Direct. “RDO has a history of being one of the best growers in the industry, and with their vast experience in agronomics and food safety, as well as attention to quality, they become a valuable addition to the Farm Fresh team.”

The two operations will bring approximately 3 million hundredweight to Farm Fresh, enabling it to be a one-stop-shop for russets, reds, golds, organics and fingerlings, as well as its value-add branded products like “PotatOH” microwaveable potatoes.

“The two new operations will also improve our shipping point flexibility and reduce our shipping costs to many of our key customers,” Mr. Knutzon added. “It also helps ensure year-round supply by diversifying our geographical growing locations.”

Keith McGovern, CEO of R.D. Offutt Co., said, “Fresh potatoes have always been a very important part of our farming business. Most of our focus has been on processing potatoes. The partnership with Farm Fresh, along with their retail and foodservice customer base and sales and marketing expertise, will greatly enhance these two operations’ future potential.”

Mssrs. Knutzon and McGovern agreed that the creation of Farm Fresh Direct of America will support the national scale of operations vs. either operation being perceived as a regional grower-shipper.

Mr. Yeager said that Farm Fresh plans to continue to expand not only operations but also product portfolio to include several “PotatOH” line extensions during the 2011-12 shipping season.