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Humble roots spring to big business for Black Gold Farms

Black Gold Farms sank its roots deep into the fertile soil of the Red River Valley more than 80 years ago. “Black Gold Farms started in 1928 when Hallie Halverson planted his first potatoes in Forest River, North Dakota,” said Glen Reynolds, national director of produce sales. “Black Gold Farms still farms those very acres. In 1959, Black Gold Farms grew potatoes for chips. Since then, this has been the main focus of the business.”

The company’s headquarters are located in Grand Forks, ND, approximately 30 miles south of Forest River. Operations have expanded significantly outside the boundaries of North Dakota.

“There are also farms in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, Maryland, Indiana and Michigan,” Mr. Reynolds told The Produce News Sept. 27.

“In 1986, to provide customers solutions to increase a fresh potato supply and to help with increasing transportation costs, Black Gold Farms started the first long distance potato venture in southeast East Missouri,” he added.

Today, the company sells over a half-billion pounds of conventional potatoes. “The Black Gold network of operations includes more than 20,000 acres in eleven states,” Mr. Reynolds stated. “That means our customers get a steady stream of high-quality potatoes with reduced transportation costs.”

According to Mr. Reynolds, Black Gold is building upon its expertise as a global industry leader to supply the domestic retail market with locally grown tablestock potatoes. “Whatever the demand, we can supply it quickly and deliver it efficiently,” he stated.

This is the first season Black Gold has grown red potatoes in the Red River Valley. “We grow red La Sodas, red Norlands, and dark red Norlands in several locations. But this season in the Red River Valley, we will only have dark red Norlands.” Just under 200 acres were planted this season. “We are planning on increasing that acreage for next year,” Mr. Reynolds added.

He was asked if weather conditions will have any effect on this year’s crop. “The weather in the Red River Valley was not ideal. But as of now, we haven’t seen any huge issues,” he replied. Vine killing began the third week of September, and the harvest is expected to conclude in early October.

“It is still a little early to project volumes and yields,” he went on to say. “But indications are it should be a decent crop.

“From what we’ve seen in our North Dakota potatoes, the quality should be good. So far, we [have] good sizing and color,” he added.

Black Gold markets reds throughout the year from various locations and growing regions. “We also grow and market fingerlings and a few gold potatoes in other locations,” Mr. Reynolds said.

In addition to its own label, the company grows, packs and ships for private-label customers. A full line of packing options is available.

As a company, Black Gold is committed to sustainability, and Mr. Reynolds provided some insight into the company’s approach. “Sustainability drives everything that we do,” he explained.

“We are a fourth generation family farm with a consistent vision for growth,” he continued. “We see sustainability as a three-pronged approach: environmental, social and economical. We have plans and systems in place to make sure we do what we can to leave the land better than when we found it. We go to great lengths to protect our natural resources — as they are what provide for us. From a social perspective, we encourage our employees to go out and be contributing members of their communities. From an economical perspective, we’re not afraid to talk about profitability. We need to be profitable in order to pay our employees and hire more. We need our customers to be profitable, and we need our suppliers to be profitable so they all can stay in business and hopefully be successful. All three of these prongs, if managed correctly, will keep Black Gold Farms sustainable and allow for continual growth on into the future.”