With help from what they call “rock star chefs,” the owners of Southwind Farms, Heyburn, Idaho, saw such an increase in demand for specialty potatoes that they increased plantings by 40% for the 2013-14 season.
As of mid-September, the little spuds coming out of he ground were looking very good, co-owner and president Robert Tominaga said.
Southwind offers a rainbow of specialty spuds with international flair. The lineup includes Russian banana fingerlings, French fingerlings, purple Peruvian fingerlings and red thumb fingerlings. Southwind also offers medley packs of fingerlings and mini fingerlings.
“What we are seeing from people we call ‘rock star chefs’ (high-profile celebrity chefs) is an increasing use of these varieties,” Tominaga said. “They plate well, especially for appetizers, and as consumers are seeing them more often in restaurants, the demand just keeps going up.”
The specialty potato growers are also moving into the school foodservice arena. A test in early September showed children liked the little potatoes, Tominaga said.
“We plan a statewide school promotion this fall,” he said.
Despite the growing demand, Robert Tominaga and co-owners Jerry Tominaga and Rod Lake have a conservative planting approach.
“We’re trying to stay a little behind the curve so we don’t saturate the market,” Robert Tominaga said.
Even with an acreage increase of 40% compared to the previous year, the growers think there still will be enough demand for specialty potatoes to make the 2013-14 season profitable for them and affordable for foodservice and other customers.
To accompany the larger volume anticipated from the additional plantings, the Southwind owners are finishing up an expansion to their facilities. The expansion will double Southwind’s capacity, Robert Tominaga said.
Bigger cooling rooms, new packaging equipment and energy-efficient dock doors are expected to be completed by the third week of October.
“Everything’s superinsulated, and we expect a return on our investment in five to seven years,” Robert Tominaga said.
“We will be able to accommodate a second shift, and I think we will be running two full shifts in two years or less.”