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Maverick Potato Co. opens in Center, CO

Potato grower Roger Christensen, who for several years sold spuds for Skyline Potato Co., recently formed Maverick Potato Co. with Michael Kruse and will begin shipping from the Center Co-op/Apex facility in downtown Center, CO.

Christensen told The Produce News he and Kruse are 50/50 partners in the venture, and the two grower/shippers anticipate moving 220,000 cwt their first year.roger-christensenRoger Christensen Christensen said they are the only growers involved, although the facility could be used to co-pack for other shippers in the area.

“Our harvest started Sept. 3,” he said earlier in the month. “And we expect to start shipping mid-October.”

Christensen was among the growers who experimented with drip irrigation on 15 acres of potatoes during the 2013 growing season, and he will have increased acreage irrigated with drip next year, he said.

“We used both temporary and permanent drip in our trials,” Christensen said. “We found the temporary worked better on the eastern side of the San Luis Valley [where soils are not as heavy]. Around Center, where the soil is heavier, the permanent drip works better.”

Results from the first year of drip showed a 15-20 percent savings in water, significant in the water-stressed area, but Christensen said additional savings were also seen in applications.

“I used about 75 percent of my normal amount of fertilizer. So cost savings will be seen in fertilizer, fungicide, herbicide and insecticide. We won’t have to use as much in the way of chemicals. One thing I do need to look at is the herbicide because we did have some weeds. We’ll work on a different cultivating system.”

The drip-irrigated plots can be square rather than circles watered by center-pivot sprinklers, but Christensen said he will continue to do both. One 60-acre plot will be square, but the remaining 15 acres under drip will be in the corners of the center-pivot circles.

As he looks forward to “getting skin in the game,” Christensen said he holds Skyline and Chief Operating Officer Randy Bache in highest regard.

“I really appreciate what Randy did for me,” he said of his time at the company.

“We are starting small at Maverick with 200,000 cwt of russets and 20,000 sacks of yellows, but we will do consumer bags, and if Mexico opens up, that could be a good niche for us as well.”