Wada Farms anticipates quality onion and potato crops out of Northwest

wadapotatoes In contrast to the challenging weather issues growers in Idaho and Eastern Oregon faced during the 2019 growing season, this year “Mother Nature has been very kind,” said Eric Beck, director of marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, ID.

With the 2020 harvest rapidly approaching, “we are seeing good healthy crops,” Beck told The Produce News July 17. “If Mother Nature doesn’t throw us any huge curve balls like she did last year with that freeze, we should have some good product coming out of the fields here in a couple of weeks.”

Wada Farms’ growing operations are widespread geographically, with sweet potatoes and watermelons coming out of North Carolina, a major potato operation in Colorado, and onions coming from various growing districts, depending on the season. But the company’s primary growing region is the Northwest, with potato production mainly in south-central and eastern Idaho and onion production principally in western Idaho and eastern Oregon.

This year, the weather in June was a little cooler than usual, which “slowed things down a little,” Beck said. But in both Idaho and Oregon, “spring was so good to us that the plants were able to get far enough along to where it is looking like it will be a pretty decent crop.”

Beck expected the company’s Idaho potato harvest to start in early August. “Our central Idaho operations for potatoes will fire up the first part of August, and then each consecutive week into August, more and more operations will come on line, moving north through the [Upper Snake River] Valley towards Rexburg,” he said. “By the third week of August, probably over half of the valley will be in operation harvesting potatoes, and by Labor Day Weekend, the whole industry should be on line harvesting spuds.”

Overall, the season appears to be running about five to eight days ahead of last year, he added.

Wada’s potato acreage in Idaho consists of both Russet and colored varieties and includes organic as well as conventional production. The organic potato harvest should start around Aug. 10, Beck said.

While it was still early to know what sizing is going to be like as the potatoes would continue sizing up until harvest, “I think we will have a good assortment of everything across the board when it comes to sizing,” he said. “Quality looks very good, thanks to favorable weather we are seeing good results, with healthy plants and good sets.”

The transition from the old crop to the new crop potatoes going to the fresh market will be a bit tight, Beck explained. Last year’s weather problems resulted in somewhat lighter-than-normal supplies for the 2019-2020. Besides being sparse, what remains in storage from the old crop “is showing the typical tiredness from having been a whole season in storage. Buyers will welcome the arrival of the new crop,” he indicated.

The harvest of Wada’s new crop onions out of western Idaho and eastern Oregon began July 20 in a light way. By Aug. 3, “things will be rocking and rolling on onions,” Beck said.

As the new season gets under way, he said one of the benefits for customers doing business with Wada Farms is the consolidation and the supply chain services that it provides to all of its customers where they can get everything in one shot. That includes a full range of potatoes and onions, including value-added items, both organic and conventional, “and even sweet potatoes if they want,” he said.      

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