MERRIAM, Kan. — One somewhat unlikely commodity is enjoying sell-out popularity in the locally grown category in the nation’s midsection.
“Right now desire for local is huge and Kansas-grown potatoes are at the top of the list,” said David Haun, owner of Haun Potato Co., a produce brokerage in Merriam, Kan., which is a suburb in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Although the clay in Kansas soil and the state’s brutally hot summers often fail to provide the beneficial growing conditions that potato growers further north rely on, Haun said russets have really taken off in the Sunflower State in the past four years.
“The growers around the (Kansas City) metro area have figured it out,” Haun said. “They’ve got the right varieties for these conditions, and this area is producing at least as much tonnage as competing growing areas.”
Kansas growers harvested 5,200 acres of potatoes in the summer of 2012, according to the National Potato Council’s Yearbook.
In Missouri, potato growers harvested 8,900 acres in summer 2012, according to the yearbook. Nebraska came in with 22,800 acres harvested, but it is far enough North to have a fall harvest instead of summer.
Haun said he expects acreage in the region to increase, partly because growers are continuing to fine tune their practices. He said some are having good results with test plots of reds and golds, and he is looking forward to promotable volumes.
“Gold-flesh potatoes continue to be the fastest growing variety,” Haun said. “If they come from local growers, that just makes it all the better.”