This is a season of redesign and reimaging for Black Gold Farms. “This past season, we took a look at our Black Gold Farms label and designed a new high-impact poly bag,” National Director of Sales Glen Reynolds told The Produce News Sept. 17. “The imagery and copy points highlight the benefits of red potatoes as well as tell the Black Gold Farms story in an easy-to-read and attractive layout.”
Black Gold Farms is headquartered in Grand Forks, ND. The company also has farming operations in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, Maryland, Indiana and Michigan. The same acres originally planted to potatoes by Hallie Halverson in 1928 in Forest River, ND, are still in production today.
“Along with our new poly bag program, we’ve been promoting locally grown and fresh product where possible with Kwik Lok tags and a QR code that directs consumers to a YouTube video talking about where these potatoes are grown and digging deeper into who Black Gold Farms is,” Mr. Reynolds went on to say. “In the next few months we’ll also be launching a category promotion talking about how everything is ‘Better With Reds,’ highlighting the flavor, ease of prep and texture of red potatoes over other varieties. We’re partnering with a food blogger to create custom recipes, developing a micro-site and creating point-of-sale materials and coupon booklet offerings customized to our customers’ needs to deliver the ‘Better With Reds’ message.”
Black Gold Farms added red potatoes grown on 200 acres in the Red River Valley to its manifest last season. “Last year was a fairly successful year,” Mr. Reynolds said. “We’ve learned a lot, and it was fun to get back to our roots of growing tablestock potatoes in the valley. The potatoes grown here are the some of the best in the world. So we’ve made a commitment to our customers that we will be able offer Red River Valley potatoes.” Red acreage increased during the 2012 production season.
As is true across the board for agriculture, weather always presents its own set of challenges to growers. “Thankfully, with our business model we’re in a good position to have a redundant supply if there are major weather issues that could affect supply at any one time during the season,” Mr. Reynolds stated. “Our crop this year wasn’t majorly affected due to weather. However, there are times where we wished we had more rain. But that’s pretty typical with our non-irrigated ground.”
Reds from other growing regions as well as fingerlings and some gold potatoes are also available.
Vines have already been killed for the Red River Valley red crop, and the second week of harvesting was underway by mid-September. “The first week started a little slow, as we’ve had unseasonably warm weather at the beginning,” Mr. Reynolds noted. “We’ve started to pick up the pace, and the plan is to keep going on a consistent schedule, weather permitting.”
While it is still too early to predict yield, Mr. Reynolds said quality appears to be good. Size profile looks average at this time. The company markets over a half-billion pounds of conventional potatoes to retail and foodservice customers. Mr. Reynolds said the largest percent of the company’s annual potato volume is sold for chips.
The company just revamped its storage facility in East Grand Forks, MN, to use for Red River Valley storage. “We’ve spent the past year on upgrading the facility to GlobalGAP standards and putting in proper ventilation, electrical units, scale systems and other components that will keep potatoes as fresh as possible during the winter months until we can provide fresh from the field potatoes starting next April in Texas,” Mr. Reynolds went on to say.
“When we get asked, ‘What keeps you up at night,’ food safety is the topic that does,” he continued. “We’re working every day to ensure that our audits are current and we’re doing everything we can to provide the safest food to our customers we can.”
Black Gold Farms moved into its new Grand Forks headquarters this past July. “It‘s in the process of getting a Gold LEED certification, which is an internationally recognized green building certification system providing third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics such as site selection, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere conservation, materials and resources efficiency and indoor environmental quality,” Mr. Reynolds said.