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Season on track for Monte Vista Potato Growers

With a new facility and line running well and storage quality good, General Manager Jason Tillman at Monte Vista Potato Growers near Monte Vista, CO, said his operation will run through the end of July and perhaps get a bit of an earlier start next September.

“The season overall is going alright, but we’ve seen movement slow down a bit after the holidays. There’s generally a slowdown this time of year, and we’re still going to hit our schedule pretty easily,” Tillman said, adding, “One thing we are concerned about is the increase in Colorado’s minimum wage.”

SAM 0145Jason TillmanColorado is one of 21 states to see an increase in minimum wages go into effect this year, and it’s one of the highest, going from $8.31 to $9.30 per hour in 2017 and increasing each year until maxing at $12 per hour in 2020.

“It’s already hit hard, and what it will cause is more automation,” Tillman said. “Eventually here we’ll go to more automatic stacking and racking. We have to — machines don’t need a day off or workman’s comp. Hopefully minimum wage will be increased nationally so Colorado can compete in the marketplace.”

Last season MVPG saw construction of a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and the utilization of a new line, and Tillman said, “The new facility is running good. We have the capability and are filling our orders. Everything is working really well.”

The 2016 crop was average sized, Tillman said after harvest last year. Some of the grower cooperative had added organic Canelas, yellows and reds to their line-up, with White Rock Specialties in Mosca, CO, shipping the certified product.

The conventional production split was 70 percent to russets, 25 percent yellows and 5 percent reds, and the Monte Vista facility can provide a full range of pack sizes. Tillman said the shed has two automated Celox sizer/sorters and the capability to do specialty packs.

A large percentage of the volume goes to Mexican receivers inside the 26k buffer zone, and Tillman expressed optimism that segment of his business will continue to grow.