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Three sheds add up to one-stop shopping for Skyline customers

CENTER, CO — As they awaited certification by Primus Labs as Global Food Safety Initiative-compliant, sales and logistics staffers at Skyline Potato Co. in Center, CO, were also moving potatoes out of Nebraska and looking to the start of the 2011-12 San Luis Valley season as well.

“We have three sheds in operation and are able to meet all of our customers’ needs,” said Randy Bache, general manager and chief operating officer of Skyline and chief operating officer of Fresh Innovations LLC, produce grower-shipper and Skyline sister company in Yuma, AZ.

Mr. Bache said “one-stop shopping” convenience is provided by Skyline’s bulk shipping and process packing operations as well as its trucking sister company, P.S. Connections.

“We have potatoes for every need,” he said, adding that retail and foodservice are major focal points. “And we supply processors year-round.”

The GFSI certification, which was anticipated following two days of auditing in early September, would “put us way ahead of the curve,” Mr. Bache, who spoke from his Arizona office in mid-August. “We will have surpassed the national standard.”

Working a dual role in sales and food safety at the Skyline operations is Rob Bache, son of Randy Bache and 2011 graduate of the University of Arizona. With his degree in agro-economics/management, the younger Mr. Bache has been a good fit for the staff.

“I am HACCP-certified through the U of A,” Rob Bache said, noting that he was preparing for the inspection and comprehensive audit for GFS.

“Every grower must be GAP-certified, and the packing shed must be third-party audited,” he said. “It is more documentation and [more selective] approval of supplies and growers. There is more environmental testing, and it also ensures cleanliness.”

Skyline has 10 growers, including two who provide the company with its organic volume. Angela Diera, who works sales with Mr. Bache, Bob Noffsinger and Roger Christensen, said certified organic reds and russets make up around 15-20 percent of the total volume of 1.8 million hundredweight.

“We have organic reds, and the rest of our potatoes are russets,” she said. Varieties are Norkotah, Centennial, Classic, Blazer, Canella and Rio Grande.

Mr. Noffsinger said early Norkotahs would start shipping between Aug. 22 and 24.

“The crop looks really good,” he said. “We had a very cool spring and hot, dry summer, but what I saw on Aug. 17 looks above average for this time of year.”

In addition to the Colorado spuds, Skyline also ships Kansas potatoes and commercial bulk out of Nebraska, and Mr. Noffsinger handles that aspect of the business.

He said, “It gives us a logistical advantage and adds another growing area for flexibility and more supplies.”

Some 10 percent of the volume goes to process, Mr. Noffsinger also said.

In the foodservice arena, “Cartons are 40-50 percent of what is packed,” he said. And specialty packs are also available.

Mr. Noffsinger said that five and 10 pounds represent most of the bags, which are poly and poly mesh. The labels are “Horizon,” “Skyline” and “Nature Fresh.”