Shannon Casey, sales manager for RPE-Colorado, predicts the company will move 500,000 hundredweight of quality potatoes for Hi-Land Potato Co., based in Monte Vista, CO. RPE, a second-generation potato and onion grower-shipper owned by the Wysocki Family of Cos., is headquartered in Bancroft, WI.
Last year, the two companies joined forces, and RPE opened its sales office at Hi-Land “RPE is the exclusive marketer of Hi-Land Potato,” Mr. Casey told The Produce News on Aug. 23.
According to Mr. Casey, the Colorado expansion dovetails with RPE’s representation of growers in Wisconsin and Idaho, and it also complements the company’s openings of offices in Minnesota, Illinois and Georgia.
“All of our potatoes are conventionally grown. But we do source quite a bit of organic product,” he said.
Mr. Casey was asked how the growing season has progressed in Colorado. “The weather in the San Luis Valley has been very dry and warm over the past few months,” he replied. Hi-Land planted 1,600 acres to potatoes in 2011. Mr. Casey said a range of potato varieties will be marketed this season.
“Available from RPE-Colorado are Russet Nortkotah, Canela, Rio Grande, Classic and Mesa, along with yellow and a limited number of red potatoes,” he stated. “In addition to growing those varieties, we have a few specialty varieties that we are perfecting, including the Colorado Sunrise, a red-skinned, yellow-flesh potato, as well as a few other varieties we are currently working on within our agronomy team.”
Although he anticipates a somewhat lower yield for all potato varieties, Mr. Casey said quality will be high.
“We should see another excellent crop very similar to last year,” he commented. “We will begin harvesting around early to mid-September and finish around Oct. 1.”
Packing operations will begin in mid-October. “We don’t pack anything off the field,” he went on to say. “It all goes to storage before we begin.”
Potatoes are packed under RPE’s “Mr. Tasty” brand. “We have the ability to pack in private labels for all of our customers,” Mr. Casey added. Product is primarily marketed in the South, Southeast and Midwest.
“RPE has expanded our customer base, and we are shipping more to the East Coast and the Northeast,” Mr. Casey stated. “Export is always an option, and we have done a fair amount of export in the past. We are waiting to see what expanding the trade zone in Mexico will do to the market.”
This season, RPE will offer customers a new line of individually-wrapped and tray-pack potatoes from the San Luis Valley. “We have high expectations for this new line, which has proved to be popular within other growing regions,” Mr. Casey stated.
RPE-Colorado is also marketing the Tasteful Selections product line that is grown and shipped from California.