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Cañon touts ‘plenty of yellows and reds’

CENTER, CO — After short russet supplies in 2010-11, Cañon Potato Co. in Center, CO, anticipates fewer russets again this year.

Company President David Tonso said in mid-August that a cold and windy spring, followed by a dry summer, has put some growers behind a week to 10 days, and he said, “I think the [russet] crop will be short again this year and yields will likely be average.”

He said that Cañon, which packs and ships spuds from several San Luis Valley growers as well as a northern Colorado potato farmer, should have “plenty of yellows and reds” for the shipping season.

“I do think the size profile will be smaller,” he said of the potatoes that were due to start coming in out of the fields between Labor Day and Sept. 12.

“Some guys are harvesting early,” he said, which would also contribute to smaller sizes.

The packingshed used the time between its last loads of 2010-11, shipped out the middle of June, and the onset of the new season to take care of upgrades and maintenance. And office staff learned a new software program that encompasses accounting, inventory and trace-back. Food safety is stressed, and Mr. Tonso said, “We will be ready to go when we hit September harvest.”

While russets make up the bulk of Cañon’s volume, the company sees good movement on its yellows and reds as well. Last season’s yellows finished in early April, and Cañon shipped the final loads of reds in mid-May.

This season, if Mr. Tonso’s predictions come to bear, reds will be up, and yellow and russet volumes will be similar to those of 2010. He noted that because of shortages in other areas, some buyers came to the San Luis Valley for yellows earlier than normal during last year’s shipping season.

The shortages that could be felt in 2011, like those of 2010, are primarily due to weather, and a lower-than-normal snowpack in the San Juan Mountains to the west contributed to less water for the crops.

Also in place this season are water fees imposed by a subdistrict in the region, a first-time expense for San Luis Valley growers.

Cañon works with northern Colorado potato grower Harry Strohauer of Strohauer Farms in marketing northern Colorado russets and yellows, which started shipping during the summer. Mr. Strohauer also grows and markets fingerlings and organics.

Working with Mr. Tonso in sales is Matt Glowczewski, and Tina Riley is office administrator. Handling shed operations is John Tonso, who oversees packing under Cañon’s own “Rocky Mountain” label as well as select private labels.

Earlier in the season Mr. Tonso said that Cañon will discontinue some of its older, lesser-used labels in an effort to make the “Rocky Mountain” brand more visible for its longtime customers. “We are committed to taking care of those folks,” he said.