Tom Lundgren, president of Stephens Point, WI-based Spud City Sales LLC, said that the Wisconsin crop is about average this year.
“We hoped to have a better crop, but yields seem to be off despite the good growing conditions we have had,” he said. “I don’t know why this happened, but it may have been the cool and wet spring. Mother Nature has a lot to do with our industry. Growers have ideal conditions for harvesting, however, so that’s helpful.”
Mr. Lundgren said that the crop is a little disheartening because it was projected to be a good year. Yields and potato sizes are off, but pricing is holding, so he remains optimistic.
“There will be a good demand and phenomenal pricing on the large, 70-count potatoes,” he said. “But there are very few around. Restaurants and institutions especially want the big sizes.”
Spud City Sales was founded in 2005, but Mr. Lundgren has been involved in the potato industry for 24 years. The company is a marketing firm for growers in Wisconsin, but it also buys and sells from every potato-producing area of the United States.
He said that Wisconsin is the third-largest potato-producing state, behind only Washington and Idaho.
“There are about 72,000 acres of potatoes produced in the state,” he said. “Of that, about 33,000 acres goes to the fresh market. The remainder is used for chip, seed and processing.”
Spud City Sales’ customers range from small independent retailers to large chain retailers and from small independent restaurants to national chain foodservice operations. It deals only in fresh-market potatoes. This year’s Wisconsin program started the first week of August with early reds and whites. Growers in the state have to store potatoes in order to service their customers year round.
Mr. Lundgren said that the economy is affecting the industry even though potatoes are inexpensive. With growing costs increasing every year, it’s important that prices remain stable and not drop any lower.
“Even with all the ups and downs, it’s still an incredible industry,” he said. “A great group of people work this industry — from our customers and farmers to the truckers.”
“We’re always glad to move into this time of year,” he continued. “We’re at our strongest time from now until January, and then we’ll taper off a little. Everyone is hungry for newly dug, new-crop potatoes.”