After more than 30 years of exclusively packing potatoes grown in its home state, NoKota Packers Inc. entered the Minnesota potato deal this year.

Steve Tweten, company president and son of NoKota co-founder Malcom Tweten, said it was just the right time to expand, partly because of improvements at the Buxton, N.D., packing facility.

“We started with a couple of Minnesota growers from the Long Prairie area,” Tweten said. “The potatoes started coming in at the end of August.”

NoKota started packing and shipping red potatoes from the Red River Valley region in 1979. At first the business was regional, but now the company ships from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast.

As business grew, so did NoKota’s facility.

In its latest growth spurt, NoKota increased the size of its on-site, atmosphere-controlled storage facility. The addition, like the previously built portions of the facility, is all concrete.

With the new space, NoKota can store 54 million pounds of potatoes at its Buxton location, Tweten said.

Potatoes at NoKota are stored at 40 degrees and 98% humidity to preserve maximum freshness. According to the company’s website, NoKota annually ships about 1,500 truckloads of red potatoes.

The company’s own brands include Buxton’s Best, Bully, Roughrider and NoKota Pride.

Tweten said about 90% of the potatoes packed by NoKota are under customers’ private brands.

NoKota works with eight growers in North Dakota in addition to the two new growers in Minnesota.