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Fifth-generation ‘potato head’ joins Cambridge Farms operation

Ken Gad, owner of Cambridge Farms in South Easton, ME, proudly announced to The Produce News that his oldest son, 25-year-old, Jay Gad, joined the company in April as the director of business development.

“Jay is our fifth-generation ‘potato head,’ and is aggressively seeking long-term programs as well as developing new marketing partners,” said Gad. “He is also developing ways to make our company more attractive to the industry that will give new customers a reason to join our program.”

Gad said that Maine will have a nice quality crop this year, noting that there is a bit of concern with growers in some areas of the state related to issues in the field.

jay-and-ken-gadJay Gad, director of business development, seated, with his father, Ken Gad, owner of Cambridge Farms.“But growers overall do an outstanding job at knowing what and where their issues are in the fields,” he added. “They are conscious, conscientious and intelligent enough to know what to leave in the field and what to put into storage.”

Harvesting on this year’s crop, he noted on Oct. 14, had already been wrapped up and the potatoes were in storage. It was a fast and positive harvest, and his growing partners were already doing their finishing field work.

“The cured potatoes should be ready to ship as early as next week, and then more growers will be joining in as the weeks go by,” he said. “Once they’re cured, shippers want to get them packed and moving as quickly as possible.”

This year’s crop presents a hope of repeating last year’s scenario where no one was claiming huge crops and most areas stayed in their normal marketing window. Although there are areas in the country where there have been cutbacks, there are others that are reporting higher yields.

“Last year Idaho had a lot of potatoes, but the quality declined so much in the spring and summer that there wasn’t much remaining to be sold,” Gad explained. “All of the storage regions cleaned up in good order last year, and that caused a tremendously high marketing program. There were some historically high numbers, especially on reds.”

He said that one of two things can occur when the nation’s overall crop is tight. One is that pricing increases to a level that will slow movement in order to stretch the crop to a longer period of time. The other is to market at reasonable prices that will allow a good market for retailers and wholesalers, and will allow the crop to move at an even pace.

“If marketers use the first option and cut back, we’ll take a short crop and turn it into a long crop,” said Gad. “The second option will allow the crop to sell at an even pace and we’ll get into next spring with a little left in storage. That is if everyone stays in their window. That’s the scenario that allows everyone to win — from the growers to the retailers and wholesalers, which also service the foodservice industry and even the consumers who get a high quality commodity at a fair price.

“There is one potential caveat to either of these scenarios,” he continued. “Once the potatoes have had their sweat and the storage bins are open, all bets are off if the crop doesn’t come out in good condition.”

Specific potato categories also affect demand and movement. Gad pointed out that regardless of where they’re grown, russets all look about the same. This is not the case with round whites, which are becoming more of a specialty item, he pointed out. Retailers today feel that russets are a safer buy because of item recognition, and they appear to move them faster than round whites.

“Russets are still leading the category, and probably always will,” he said. “Round whites continue to be in second or third place in demand priority, and are probably on about the same page with yellows. But both fall well behind reds.”

In October, Cambridge Farms celebrated its 30th year in business. Gad said that he looks forward to continuing to service the company’s customers in the same efficient and professional manner that they have become accustomed to from the firm.

“We also look forward to adding new trading partners in our goal to continue to grow and be a force in the industry,” he said.