Eva Dawson, sales and quality control representative for Dawson Farms LLC in Delhi, LA, told The Produce News that the company was about a quarter of the way through its harvest as of Sept. 29.
“This is a normal harvest for us,” said Ms. Dawson. “Our projected finish is by no later than October 31. Growing conditions were dry, but we are irrigated so we were able to supply the crop with ample moisture. Hurricane Lee helped out with some rainfall in September. The quality and the volume of our crop are both higher this year than we had last year, but on the same amount of acreage.” The company grows sweet potatoes on approximately 3,400 acres.
Dawson Farms sells a good deal of its crop to processors, and that side of the business continues to grow. The state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly ConAgra sweet potato-processing facility in Delhi opened its doors in September 2010. It is designed primarily to process the region’s high-quality sweet potatoes into fries and related products. The facility created approximately 275 jobs, and future expansion could increase the total number of jobs created to more than 500. Many Louisiana growers benefit from demand for local sweet potatoes.
“Demand is definitely up from retailers, foodservice operators and processors,” said Ms. Dawson. “Every year, we get more interest from all of these sectors, and sales stay strong year round. The main push is still for the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Dawson Farms’ facility is refrigerated with storage capacity for 1 million bushels of sweet potatoes. Its outstanding storage ability enables the company to ship sweet potatoes on a year-round basis with no gaps.
The company produces primarily the Beauregard variety. Ms. Dawson said that it tends to have a more-appealing skin color, texture and a taste that consumers prefer. It also grows other varieties.
Dawson Farms is certified by Scientific Certification Systems for Good Manufacturing Practices, and it is certified for Good Agriculture Practices. Because the company plants, grows and harvests its own crop, it has full traceability in place.
“Things are status quo and running on schedule for us this year,” said Ms. Dawson. “And we are very pleased with the quality of this year’s crop.”