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Dublin Farms Inc. in Horntown, VA, is a grower-shipper-packer of potatoes for the fresh market. The company also grows snap beans for processing, and grain crops like corn, soy beans and wheat for the poultry industry.

hickmanpotatoes 051612 so-0A welcoming sign at Dublin Farms Inc. in Horntown, VA.David Hickman, vice president of the company, said it sells direct to retailers, including chain stores, and to wholesalers, repackers and brokers at terminal markets.

“We ship from Miami to Montreal,” said Mr. Hickman. “In the early part of the season we’re heaviest into Northeastern cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, Boston, Syracuse and Buffalo. When North Carolina and other southern states stop shipping, we start moving potatoes in that direction.”

The company produces several varieties each of round white, redskin and yellow-flesh potatoes.

“We plant during March,” explained Mr. Hickman. “This year we’ll start harvesting reds and whites on June 20. The mild winter and spring is bringing the crop on earlier this year. We have had ideal growing conditions throughout. It was dry at planting but we got adequate rain during the growing season. Every plant came up and the overall crop is in good condition.”

Dublin Farms is irrigating 100 percent of its acreage this year, which helped to ensure that the crop had no adverse problems. Mr. Hickman added that yellow varieties of potatoes are scheduled to start on June 25. Overall, the company is about two weeks early with its potato crops this year.

“We were about 10 days early last year, also due to warmer than normal temperatures,” he said. “These last two years have been more of an exception than the norm, however.”

Mr. Hickman noted that warmer-than-normal temperatures can always mean that some areas could overlap, but the demand for potatoes is currently good.

“Marketing is always key to good prices, so hopefully the good demand will mitigate any overlaps that may occur this year,” he said.

Dublin Farms’ potato movement runs through the first week of August in what Mr. Hickman said is a six-week deal. The company digs, packages and refrigerates its potatoes overnight prior to shipping.

“It’s important to get the core temperature of the potatoes down to the low 50s before we ship them,” Mr. Hickman explained.

He also said that potato consumption is up and that “we expect good demand this year. We took a hit from the low-carbohydrate diet a few years ago, but people have gone back to eating them. Potatoes provide good nutritional value for the money, and the market is ready for the new spring crop when it starts coming on.”

Dublin Farms has made numerous improvements in its packaging line equipment in the past several years. In 2010, it was certified Good Agriculture Practices, and it recertifies every year, including in 2012.

“We have added 50-pound cartons to our line,” said Mr. Hickman. “Normally we pack in five- and 10-pound poly bags, and five- to 50-pound paper bags. Our 2,000-pound totes go to repackers. Our five- and 10-pound poly premium bags are mesh for extra ventilation. Our potatoes carry the ‘Dublin Farms’ brand.”

Mr. Hickman’s grandfather started growing potatoes in 1870, and the commodity has been in some part of the Dublin Farms company ever since.

“My brother, Phil, and I started the current operation in 1974,” he said. “Today, we send out 10 to 15 tractor-trailer loads per day during our season.”