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Wallace family grows significant reputation, outstanding potatoes

G&D Wallace Inc./Wallace Farms has a history that sinks its roots deep into the Washington’s fertile Skagit Valley. “The Wallace family has been growing potatoes in the Skagit Valley since 1903 after emigrating from Ireland,” Secretary Jack Wallace told The Produce News Aug. 18. The current company was founded in the 1950s by brothers George and Dick Wallace, who farmed the same land farmed by their father, Robert Wallace, and their uncles George and Tom Wallace.

Today, the legacy of Wallace Farms, located in Burlington, WA, is carried forward by George Wallace’s sons, Jack and Norm, and by Dick Wallace’s son, Tim.

Wallace Farms grows and markets conventional red, white, gold and purple potatoes. On the organic side, the company also grows red and russet potatoes. “Organics account for about 15 percent of our production,” Mr. Wallace stated.

The verdant Skagit Valley is known for its unique growing conditions. Mr. Wallace said that potato skins are remarkably smooth and potatoes vary in color from pure white to cherry red.

He was asked about growing conditions during the 2011 production season. “This has been a challenging year in that we had a very wet spring,” Mr. Wallace replied. “In most years, we start planting in April and finish in May. This season, we were only able to plant a small portion of our crop in May, and the bulk of our acreage was planted in June.”

Even with the later planting timetable, product quality will not be impaired. “In fact, we have some of the nicest quality that I can remember,” Mr. Wallace said. “The problem is that the late fields will not mature and be ready to harvest until late in the fall when the weather is unpredictable.”

Potato acreage has remained relatively stable for the past several years. “Because growing conditions have been excellent, we have very nice quality,” Mr. Wallace stated. “The big issue this season will be the fall weather.”

He expects this year’s harvest to commence around Sept. 15. “If we can harvest in late October, then we should be fine,” he noted.

The company uses Primus Labs as its third-party packinghouse auditor. “In 2010, our packinghouse with HACCP audit score was 100 percent,” Mr. Wallace stated. “Our field audit for 2010 was performed by Scientific Certification Systems, and we achieved superior audit scores. We are fully compliant with the Produce Traceability Initiative.”

Packinglines and field equipment are fine-tuned each summer to produce the best possible packs. “We are very responsive to our customers’ needs, and we can act rapidly to fill a request,” Mr. Wallace commented. “We also try new varieties each season in order to offer our customers new products. Our customers expect the best, and we work very hard to deliver just that.”

Wallace Farms markets its potatoes under the “Samish River” and “Skagit Meadows” brands to retailers, wholesalers and foodservice providers throughout North America. “We also export to Taiwan,” he added. “Our sales season runs from late August until May.”

Customers can take advantage of a full range of packing options to meet their needs. These include 3-, 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-pound poly bags and 1- to 3-pound mesh bags. Clear poly bags are also available with bilingual labeling. Additionally, Wallace Farms offers 50-pound master containers and high-graphics cartons, which are excellent for displays.